Nothing says Brittany like the buttery smell of crepes. Or the tart taste of artisanal cider, the ideal accompaniment to wash them down. Those treats circulated on trays ahead of Jean Paul Gaultier’s inventive Breton-inspired couture collection.
This show marked something of a return to form for Gaultier, who steered clear of kitsch and camp and focused more on his craft. Finding “the necessary time to find fresh ideas and to innovate” was among the reasons the designer cited for halting his ready-to-wear collections last year.
One could argue that the coastal region, whose famous striped sailor sweater, or marinière, is one of the Gaultier brand’s most obvious signposts, is not exactly the freshest idea out there. Yet folkloric embroideries, especially done in brilliant yellow gold, added verve to a range of handsome officer and pea coats, captain’s blazers and capri pants. Finally, here was some realistic and handsome daywear, the swirling and geometric embroideries jazzing up the tailleurs.
The cultural region has a rich costume history, and Gaultier incorporated its funeral garb, apron shapes, shawls and dramatic headdresses, known as “coiffes,” lace tubes as large as a roll of paper towels propped on the head. He also found yet more ways to spin those stripes, most dramatically in a tiered “Gone With the Wind” skirt.
He experimented with square shapes on top, yielding an origami peplum on a tuxedo number, and a severely notched shoulder — as if a slice had been hacked out — on other jackets, while round shapes were reserved for skirts, the length depending on the size of the two pancakes of fabric stitched together. Mixed in were Gaultier standards: trench coats in gauzy fabrics; tuxedos etched as sailor suits, and a velvet gown with a middy collar.
A Breton pipe band closed out the show before the soundtrack switched to the Village People’s “In the Navy” and the exuberant designer bounded out for his bow, indulging himself in a smidge of camp humor.