Te Quiero Gaultier
Published January 28, 2010
Ay Carumba, who has been spiking Jean Paul Gaultier’s tequila these days? The couture collection he presented for spring was the most extraordinary, inventive and technically masterful display of what couture can be that I’ve seen in ages. Gaultier went to Mexico—well, not really. He reportedly went to an exhibition about Montezuma in London last year. This could have been a hazardous trip with all the exoticizing, kitschy possibilities one might find on a mediated trip south of the border, but Gaultier’s talent flew right over all that. The collection was irreverent, but also beautiful and full of ideas. It’s so rare to find a designer who can make amazing clothes, but who also has a sense of humor. Gaultier puts to shame the retrovision notion that couture has no legitimacy if it doesn’t come from a house with a heritage. So we have a jean jacket with a matching sleeping bag skirt in tatters with bronze filigree beading. Mariachi sombreros in feathers, Zorro morphed with petticoats, a señorita’s embroidered shawl spliced with a black jumpsuit and evening gowns fashioned from 3-D silk jungle flora and palm fronds. This show was a relentless display as though once started Gaultier just couldn’t turn it off. And the atelier he must have! All reports that tour de force couture handwork is a dying art should be reconsidered.
Gaultier is a new couture house by Paris standards. He presented his first couture collection in 1996. What’s exciting is that he’s not just churning out the old standards: draping, intricate embroidery, bias wizardry etc… He knows how to do all that perfectly and it would be enough to sustain him in couture. But he’s also inventing new ways to make amazing clothes by hand. This season’s silk basketweave dresses flowed over the curves like a waterfall, bodysuits and jackets made from fan-folded silk patchwork with each piece hand-dyed to create a gradated color effect looked surreal and the macramé, and constructions made from soft tubes of silk are wearable pieces of sculpture. The end result is a mix of classic couture which any woman with too much money could wear, and show stoppers that can only come from a modern imagination in fine form. The debate whether this is wearable by mere mortals, or strictly for performance (high-budget Beyoncé and Madonna tours), is irrelevant.