Classic Couture: Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino

By

Published January 27, 2011

 

LOOKS FROM GAULTIER (LEFT) AND VALENTINO

 

In a mix of French cancan ruffles and sky-high Mohawk hairdos, Jean Paul Gaultier sent out  couture’s most exuberant collection, inspired by 1970s punk and the 1890s Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec. The show simultaneously returned to the hushed atmosphere of old couture—no music, just a voiceover by Catherine Deneuve describing the numbered looks in frothy detail. It ended with a stunning cancan dance from Psykko Tycco of the Crazy Horse, who galloped down the runway kicking her legs to the ceiling. Gaultier has always taken inspiration from the streets, turning the trenchcoat, corset, sailor top, and blouson into his trademarks. In a season where designers have reached out to sci-fi inspirations, Gaultier’s couture was refreshingly sassy.  Beginning with his “Trench Cancan,” a huge black satin trench gown with an underskirt in ruffles and feathers, Gaultier covered his cropped blouson with studs, floated sailor stripes around the bust of an hourglass bustier dress, and used his couture atelier to find intricate ways to corset evening gowns. Most of this was in shimmering black, for maximum effect without gilding the lily.

Valentino’s Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli have given the house a second youth since they took the reins. One imagines the daughters of Valentino’s mature customers lining up for these clothes, which are sexily subdued, with long sleeves, softly pleated skirts and transparence  covered with scattered flowers in the palest flesh tones and pinks and worn with clusters of butterflies around the neck. The collection sought to bring couture back to a softer reality, as Karl Lagerfeld did so well at Chanel earlier this week. Even a Peter Pan-collar shirtdress, its pleats scattered with iridescent sequins, looks alluring. Lattice-work yokes and pleats converging into a bull’s eye on one cream dress are delicate techniques, meant to be appreciated up-close.