Jean Paul Gaultier’s tailoring skill has often earned him comparisons with Yves Saint Laurent, but there’s another famous couturier to whom he owes a big debt.
The former enfant terrible of French fashion dedicated his spring haute couture collection to his former mentor Pierre Cardin. Flanked by Maryse Gaspard, his glamorous muse and head of haute couture, the 95-year-old was swarmed by television cameras as he arrived at the show.
Gaultier, whose first job was as Cardin’s studio assistant, noted the Space Age designer has broken every rule in the book. “Cardin was always free and he has remained a free man who does what he pleases,” he said.
Thus inspired, Gaultier put on a soundtrack of jangly pop and loopy space tunes, and set off on a trip to the Swinging Sixties, with outfits named Twiggy Pop, Yellow Submarine or Cardinella.
He had clearly been boning up on the Cardin monograph published by Assouline last fall. Though the references weren’t overt — no Bubble dresses or A-line minis — his influence could be felt in monochrome outfits sliced to produce kinetic effects, and sharp-shouldered belted jackets with exaggerated peplums.
Above all, Gaultier appeared to share the veteran designer’s love of fringe. Whereas Cardin is fond of car wash strips, here they came in all sorts of guises, from the undone hem of a dress woven from strips of sailor-striped fabric, to the floor-sweeping streamers on the sleeves of a sharp black trouser suit.
Gaultier being Gaultier, there were times when his homage strayed into Austin Powers territory. Wearing wigs that evoked a cross between Agnes Gru and Judy Jetson, models vamped it up in Op Art prints embroidered with 3-D swirls, while an oversized pendant bounced hypnotically from Anna Cleveland’s neck.
Then again, what’s wrong with having a little fun? A pregnant Coco Rocha and her two-year-old daughter Ioni provided a high point of the week with a mommy-and-me stroll down the catwalk, complete with Sixties model poses.
Cardin, who rarely graces other designers with his front-row presence, was generous in his praise for once. “Bravo for his collection — I liked it a lot,” he said after the show. “I don’t think he copied me. He imposed his own personality.”