February 19, 2024

On Wednesday afternoon, at the offices of Jean Paul Gaultier in the rue Saint Martin in Paris, lived one of those increasingly few memorable moments on a catwalk. From the outside and broadly speaking, the sensual and maximalist aesthetic of Olivier Rousteing at Balmain and the theatricality of Gaultier’s visual archive have little to do with each other. That’s why at first it was hard to understand why he chose it for his third haute couture collaboration: the unstructured basics of the Japanese Chitose Abe (Sacai) were part of the designer’s personal wardrobe; and Glenn Martens, the Belgian in charge of Y Project and Diesel, trained for years under his orders. But Roustening?

By the end of the show it was clear to the public that honest admiration is a powerful creative engine. Rousteing read Gaultier’s legacy in an absolutely personal way: the Le Male perfume bottle that his father had in the bathroom, and which here took the form of boots and dresses; the mesmerizing irreverence of Madonna in the early 1990s (there were the corsets, but also that bare-chested strappy design) and, above all, the praise of the difference that Gaultier’s long career has made. As Rousteing pointed out to EL PAÍS shortly before the parade, “now we talk about racial diversity or non-binaryism, but it was he who paved the way.” He himself learned through Gaultier when he was a teenager that there was nothing wrong with wearing makeup or traditionally feminine clothing. That’s why he decided to open his show with several men who were wearing an update of the collection. Tattoo by the French designer, a nod to Rousteing’s own African roots.

A model wears a Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture creation, inspired by the Frenchman's Le Male perfume bottle, during the brand's fashion show on July 6, 2022 in Paris.
A model wears a Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture creation, inspired by the Frenchman’s Le Male perfume bottle, during the brand’s fashion show on July 6, 2022 in Paris.Michel Euler (AP)

They were followed by 44 women who reinvented the broad language of Gaultier: corsets, fragrance containers, exposed busts, denim deconstructed, hearts and of course the mythical mariniere that Rousteing himself wore when he went out to say hello. Gaultier, who had barely seen a couple of sketches of the collection, applauded and even blushed in the stands when he discovered that the music was some kind of mash up of his beloved Mylene Farmer and his own voice in different interviews. The public applauded each outing in a fashion show in which the models had the attitude and poise most typical of a ball of voguing that of a catwalk to use. “I am inspired by the diversity of the street, which is why I wanted to be honest and direct with the proposal,” explained Rousteing.

Three of Olivier Rousteing's proposals for the new Gaultier haute couture collection.
Three of Olivier Rousteing’s proposals for the new Gaultier haute couture collection.Peter White (Getty Images) / Pascal Le Segretain (Getty Images)

Another show, although much more conceptual and introspective, was the one devised by John Galliano in handmade, the (recycled) haute couture line of Maison Margiela. The British designer has explored the possibilities of the short film during these two years, and now, in his first couture show after the pandemic, he wanted to integrate it into a montage that fused theater and cinematographic visuals. Galliano, who has always been a great storyteller, has set aside the opulence of his years at Dior to tell much more intimate stories in the Belgian house.

If in his previous sewing collection, inspired by flamenco painting, he spoke, through video, of the struggle of a small community with the natural elements through garments that aged and tore, now he has wanted to tell a story of cowboys and vampires titled cinema infernoa kind of meta-narrative about the world of cinema itself with nods to the western and to the melodramas of golden Hollywood. Because if there’s one thing Galliano likes, besides telling stories, it’s revisiting wardrobe from different periods: here were sand-dyed coats, gothic capes, and 1950s evening gowns, not as grandiloquent as those of his time in Dior but equally well crafted. The creator’s work at Margiela, perhaps the quintessential conceptual house, seeks precisely the opposite: to praise the imperfection and rawness of the materials and reflect the passing of time, going beyond canonical ideas of beauty to value the emotional and intimate of the dress

Guram Gvasaglia did not want to excite but to make, in his own words, “a real fashion show”. His reality, that is, the reality of Vetements since the Gvasaglia brothers founded the firm in 2014, remains the same, despite the fact that Demna left the creative direction in the hands of his brother, until now the company’s manager, the past December: models of different generations walking quickly and ironizing with clothing stereotypes, from the gray office worker to the celebrities (this time dressed as Paris Hilton), the ostentatious millionaire or the post-adolescent tracksuit. In his first show as a designer, Guram has deployed all the elements of Vetements (and, by extension, some of Balenciaga’s). There were the narrow neon-colored glasses and the extra-large helmet-like ones, the shoulder pads, the knee-length sleeves, the sweatshirts oversized, T-shirts with messages and even a trench coat stamped with the now mythical pictures of moving bags. As it could not be otherwise, the chosen place has been an abandoned party hall full of rubble in the Pigalle area.

Four of the outputs during the Vetements haute couture show on July 7 in Paris.
Four of the outputs during the Vetements haute couture show on July 7 in Paris.Victor Boyko (Getty Images)

The closing of the haute couture fashion week in Paris was carried out by the Spanish woman invited by the Federation to participate in this exclusive calendar. Juana Martín’s has also been an intimate show, with Israel Fernández singing verses by Lorca and Rossy de Palma opening a Show titled Andalusia, an excellent succession of black or white garments that celebrated their craftsmanship and clothing tradition, fusing genres and traditions: from the headdresses in fluorine colors that imitated ironwork made by Vivascarrión to the embossed leather shoes designed in collaboration with the Breton house Maison Felger . A collection made between his workshops in Córdoba and his atelier from Paris, where he settled five years ago. “They asked me how I was going to reflect the light of Andalusia in my black suits, but Andalusia is precisely that, the light that radiates from black”, commented the Cordovan designer after the show, “a different tribute, with a certain Lorca drama but also with the optimism that characterizes us”, she explained while Pascal Morand, president of the French Haute Couture Federation, came over to congratulate her.

The Fendi show of its haute couture collection for the autumn/winter 2023 season, this Thursday in Paris.
The Fendi show of its haute couture collection for the autumn/winter 2023 season, this Thursday in Paris.CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT (AFP)

The free interpretation of other cultures and their clothing has also been the starting point for Kim Jones’s proposal at Fendi, who for the first time has moved away from Rome, the firm’s headquarters and recurring inspiration in its collections, to find it in Kyoto. and in Paris, specifically, in the japonism late 19th century French. Hand-printed 18th-century kimono fabrics have been resurrected by Jones using the same centuries-old technique (called Kata Yuzen) of hand-printing and spinning. But the work of the British designer in the Fendi couture line does not seek spectacularity, nor, of course, appropriation: the vast Japanese textile tradition serves here to revive the technique. However, the result is much more practicable than your starting point. The kimono is the basis for flowing dresses and tunics whose mastery is apparent from nuances that cannot be seen at first glance.

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