The Jean Paul Gaultier couture show on Wednesday, where Rabanne’s Julien Dossena was about to unveil his one-off collection, felt like a Gaultier fan club meeting — and alumni reunion.
Louis Vuitton’s women’s creative director Nicolas Ghesquière, an alum of the Gaultier house, leaned in to chat across the narrow runway with Gaultier himself, as did Haider Ackermann, last season’s guest designer.
Behind Gaultier sat designer Victor Weinsanto, a newer Gaultier acolyte with a bright future ahead of him.
The show was crowded, late and hot, but everyone seemed up for it, like it was 1999.
Lo and behold, Dossena drew heavily on ‘90s Gaultier in a terrific and polished collection that also seamlessly incorporated the metal elements he’s plied over the past decade as creative director at Paco Rabanne, now known simply as Rabanne.
Since introducing the guest-designer concept — Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing, Glenn Martens of Y/Project and Diesel, and Chitose Abe of Sacai have also done the honors — Gaultier has given these hand-picked creatives carte blanche to interpret his vast oeuvre, preferring the pleasure of discovering the collection as a complete surprise.
However, Dossena said backstage that the fashion maverick encouraged him to show his mettle with metal, something Gaultier had experimented with sparingly over a career that spanned 50 years.
It was literally the connective tissue in two exits that winked to Gaultier’s “Adam & Eve” couples show from 1991. Here, the train of a dress and the tail of a man’s jacket came attached to other dresses.
Dossena also married mesh to lingerie lace, to anatomical body stockings, and to a strapless coat, the metal printed to resemble a bohemian scarf knotted to hold up the garment.
One metal column dress had grids to evoke Gaultier’s treasured sailor stripes, which were also realized in a degrade from fuzzy mohair to full-on feathers.
Dossena succeeded in evoking the real-life characters Gaultier exalted on his runway, heightening this connection to the street with a soundtrack of heels on pavement and traffic noise in lieu of music.
Backstage, Dossena related that Gaultier was the person who made him realize as a child growing up in remote Brittany, France, that a career in fashion was possible, after stumbling across a television program dedicated to a burgeoning “enfant terrible” of Paris.
The designer succeeded in conveying the powerful femininity Gaultier has always represented, with a touch of flamboyance and a dash of cool.