Gaultier x Sacai's couture confusion
Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men. The marriage of Jean Paul Gaultier and Chitose Abe of Sacai should have been a blockbuster collection. But after Wednesday’s debut it’s probably best it’s just a one off collection with a quickie divorce.
In response to Gaultier’s decision to retire last year, the house came up with a novel plan; request a different designer each season to create a Gaultier Paris couture collection.
The choice of Chitose Abe, the acclaimed designer of Sacai, was hailed as a master stroke. So, after a six-month delay due to covid, the air tingled with anticipation at Gaultier’s headquarters before Abe sent out her cast in the central saloon.
But in the end this was one soufflé that failed to rise. Or, more accurately, it felt like Abe had take all sorts of Gaultier references – sailor’s shirts, deconstruction; wild flight jackets and Parisian trench-coats – and thrown them into a blender along with her own signature assemblage techniques.
The result was, well, pretty messy.
For instance, Jean-Paul’s much loved deconstructed denim gowns became a weird dress with ten pairs of jeans stitched into its back. If that sounds like a muddle, that’s because it was.
Abe also attempted to marry Jean-Paul’s love of pinstripe with his gender-flexible aesthetic, but instead of Gaultier’s artful compositions we witnessed ungainly mishmashes that threatened to teeter over.
Abe’s program also mimicked Jean Paul’s love of giving wacky titles to each outfit: in her case names like Upcycle of Life, Incrediballs and Big Trench Accent. The latter turned out to be a trench-coat morphed into a bustier dress, whose off-kilter proportions just did not feel right. The sort of look a talented assistant dreams up but never makes the edit onto the catwalk.
Admittedly there were some ideas that seemed instant museum quality: the dramatic flight-jacket combo cut like a mad courtier, or the collection’s one outstanding look – a super-heroine in patchwork Aran sweater and matching platform boots.
In effect, the collection only served to undermine what a brilliant designer Gaultier has always been. And how hard an act he is to follow. If Abe, in recent years one of the top 20 most influential designers in fashion has a hard time, what will the rest be able to do?
Ever the gallant gentleman, Gaultier posed post-show with Abe on the second floor balcony of his old headquarters, along with six models, bringing traffic to a horn blaring halt, as hundreds of fans outside took mobile phone photos.
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