Gaultier bids the runway adieu on final day of couture

PARIS (AP) — John Galliano put on a tongue-in-cheek show for Maison Margiela on the final day of Paris Fashion Week, as Jean Paul Gaultier bid adieu to the Paris couture runway with a fashion show and surprise guest singer Boy George at the Chatelet Theater.

Gaultier on Wednesday retired from runway couture collections — the designer’s only remaining runway show outlet since ending his ready-to-wear collections in 2014. Hanging up his couture pin cushion — and with it effectively his catwalk career — is a big moment for the industry, but also a logical step for the onetime enfant terrible of French fashion, who had acknowledged his disillusionment with the frenetic pace of the modern fashion industry.

Here are some highlights of Wednesday’s spring-summer 2020 haute couture displays.

BRUNI BIDS GAULTIER’S GOODBYE BUT NOT ADIEU

Former French First Lady and ex-supermodel Carla Bruni joined hundreds of veteran Gaultier aficionados, who pushed and shoved in the iconic Chatelet Theater, for the final-curtain-call couture collection of Paris’ inimitable fashion artiste.

“Life is always the end of an era,” Bruni told Associated Press, striking an upbeat tone. “Jean Paul can never really stop.”

In a tweet, the 67-year-old Gaultier said that the Wednesday night couture show “celebrating 50 years of my career will also be my last.” He added: “But rest assured, haute couture will continue with a new concept,” without elaborating how.

For the relatively small Paris couture industry, having last year lost a towering figure in Karl Lagerfeld, the decision for Gaultier to quit, one more lost voice, has marked it deeply.

The difference is: “Jean Paul is alive. He’s well and alive,” Bruni said, smiling.

THE FINAL GAULTIER SHOW

Dealing head-on with whispers about the end of his career, ever-humorous Gaultier began the spectacle with a funeral scene — as six male models carried a black coffin onto the runway. He ended it, after 90 minutes of new creations, jumping and laughing on stage as everyone danced to Boy George’s singing his hit “Church of the Poison Mind.”

The energetic collection was a greatest hits of his couture. Figures from the Gaultier’s past, including models from the 1980s, as well as it-models such as Bella Hadid and Karlie Kloss, walked the runway.

Design flourishes included cropped denim hot-pants with an actual pair of jeans attached to the back, a floaty Asiatic printed parachute gown, a sheath made of blown-up belts, a fringed monochrome tuxedo coat, and even a ninja outfit with a feathered headpiece. Needless to say there were also lots of gender-bending styles.

The mood felt more like rock concert than couture show with screams from the audience. Accordingly, France’s answer to Madonna, pop star Mylene Farmer, popped out from behind a screen to walk the runway to the booming sound of her own songs. Dita Von Teese appeared in a corset, to the audience’s hysteria.

It was certainly a historic moment for fashion.

After founding his eponymous label in 1982, Gaultier shocked the fashion industry by introducing man-skirts and kilts to menswear. He became known as a designer who fused gender identity and empowered women.

Looking back through decades of his creations some years ago, Gaultier told The Associated Press that it was a bustier that first made him a household name in the United States – specifically one a certain pop star from Michigan named Madonna wore on her “Blond Ambition” tour in 1990.

MARGIELA: GRUMPY GUESTS, JOYOUS MUSIC

A soundtrack that featured Julie Andrews singing the “Sound of Music” was just enough to coax smiles from grumpy front row guests at Maison Margiela’s morning show. The Artisanal couture collection shown on a freezing morning took place in a venue with no heating — and no coffee. It also started 40 minutes late for no ostensible reason.

At least the delay provided powerful figures in fashion — such as former Dior designer Raf Simons and Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, an opportunity to catch up.

John Galliano’s usual tongue-in-cheek mood pervaded colorful and deconstructed co-ed designs. The blue, floor-length dress at the start of the show came perforated with flappy circles that looked like they’d been removed with a paper hole punch. The head wear? Two leaves of cabbage held together with a tulle veil.

There were several ensembles that demonstrated Galliano’s design prowess, such as a dark coat that was fitted entirely only on one side in an abstract take on the nonchalant style of holding a coat over a shoulder.

At times, though, the fashion icon strayed this season into the plain silly.

VERY BIG DIAMOND

Louis Vuitton is romancing the stone. The LVMH-owned house has unveiled to private clients in France the latest member of its family: The world’s second-largest rough diamond.

The age-old house announced last week that it was the proud new owner of the 1,758-carat Sewelo diamond, which is the size of a tennis ball.

The uncut stone discovered in Botswana is named “Sewelo,” which means “rare find” in the Setswana language.

The diamond, which was bought for an undisclosed sum of money, has a raw black appearance owing to its carbon patina. Images show that it has a slight blueish color.

Its acquisition for an undisclosed sum is the latest signal that LVMH is getting serious about jewels after November’s acquisition of Tiffany & Co. for $16.2 billion. LVMH also owns Bulgari.

VALENTINO STUMBLES

Is Pierpaolo Piccioli losing the Midas touch? The talented Valentino designer, who for seasons turned everything to gold, has cooled creatively of late.

This was sadly on display on the final day of couture week, one that Valentino traditionally dominates.

On Wednesday evening, even as guests like singer Mika and actress Clemence Poesy applauded vigorously, the designs left behind a sense of incoherence.

In the show notes, Valentino seemed to consider the divergence of styles an asset: “Uniqueness is what makes all human beings identical,” they said.

Yet beautiful as many of the individual designs were — from giant ethnic fringed earrings and eye-popping color to richly-textured or backless gowns that shimmered under the palatial crystal chandeliers — they appeared one after the other as if haphazardly. Polka dots, giant bows, color blocking and different silhouettes followed contrasting styles.

There seemed to be no dominant idea.

Given that the solo Piccioli staged two major shows — menswear and couture — in the space of a week, perhaps the creative stumble is owed to the inhuman pace of the fashion calendars?

ELIE SAAB’S DETAIL

The Lebanese designer loaded his spring couture with intricate detailing and complex silhouettes that represented thousands of hours of work.

It sometimes gave the dramatic 1970s-infused collection a regal quality.

One key look was a sheer silk, latticed pale gray mini-dress with lace and decorative appliques, giant Juliette sleeves and a neck scarf. The model wore cascading bejeweled earrings with a stern expression, and pulled an aristocratic silk train behind her.

It felt rather indulgent, and the truncated silhouette – one repeated in Saab’s 59-look display – appeared a tad busy. It was disappointing, given the amount of time it must have taken to construct the garment, but at least it was attention-grabbing.

When Saab went to his bread-and-butter cinched-waist gowns, the silhouette fared better. These styles are, after all, why he has such an impressive celebrity following.

This season, they came in baby blue, silver sand and green-yellow among other colors.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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