Within the early Nineties, there was scarcely something extra thrilling in trend than a Jean Paul Gaultier present. Think about a one-night-only efficiency by the world’s cult-iest rock star. The hysteria that swirled round a Gaultier presentation was equally febrile. It fuelled controversy too, just like the one sparked by “Stylish Rabbis,” JPG’s present for Autumn/Winter 1993, when he confirmed a wealthy however monochrome assortment impressed by the garb of Orthodox Jews.
Sometimes for the designer, the next season couldn’t have been extra of a polar reverse, although it was no much less provocative. Spring 1994’s Les Tatouages mirrored Gaultier’s fascination with tattoos, and with physique artwork usually. He’d found the transgressive work of LA-based excessive efficiency artist Ron Athey, and he’d been going to tattoo conventions. He talked about seeing an exquisite older girl sporting a see-through shirt. At all times an aficionado of undergarments, Gaultier was mesmerised by her bra, much more when he realised she had pierced nipples, and the bra was truly a tattoo. That confusion between pores and skin and fabric was a leitmotif in Les Tatouages. However so was the fusion of a dozen different parts: Indian mysticism, 18th century silhouettes, thirteenth century martyrdom, haute couture, punk, fetish put on, denim and all the time, the physique tattoo-ed, scarified, pushed on and on to the (un)limits of Gaultier’s creativeness.
The variety is much more resonant now, practically 30 years later. Gaultier forged the definitive trend faces of the period – Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Kirsten Owen, Nadja Auermann, Yasmeen Ghauri, Tatjana Patitz – alongside the oddball people who have been, or would change into, Gaultier regulars, just like the Almodovar favorite Rossy di Palma, the wry redhead Eugenie Vincent, the basketballing man mountain Vladimir McCrary and, most of all, poseur extraordinaire Tanel Bedrossiantz, who would go on to spend greater than twenty years as JPG’s male muse. They have been interspersed with women and men the designer may have forged in Camden Market on the time. He all the time insisted his largest design inspiration was the melting pot of the road, so the spectrum of race and gender, even age and physique sort on show right here was instinctive, celebratory, respectful, but additionally very deliberate. Identical with the visible references to different cultures and faiths. A seam of social remark ran by means of Gaultier’s work. He waged conflict in opposition to native French xenophobia. Celebrating the Different, relatively than fearing it, was a cornerstone of his profession. Even when he all the time appeared essentially the most optimistic of designers, there was sometimes a way that he was selecting aside an imperfect world within the hope that he may put it again collectively in a greater method. That was very true of Les Tatouages with its intricate collage of time and place.
The present came about in Galerie Vivienne, one of many grand nineteenth century arcades that dot central Paris. It was additionally house to Gaultier’s flagship retailer. With the viewers crammed down both facet of the arcade, there wasn’t a lot room for the fashions to stroll. The ambiance was shut and heady, amplified by incense and drifting, mystical music. Very un-disco. The face jewelry and piles of beads, the pierced lips, ears and noses and the precise inking complemented second-skin trompe l’oeil tattoo tops and draped sarongs. Odile Gilbert’s hairstyling and Stephane Marais’s make-up assisted in startling transformations. Stella Tennant, in considered one of her first appearances on a Paris catwalk, was nearly unrecognisable.
I may solely giggle after I learn Bernadine Morris’s brutally transient summary of Gaultier’s present for the New York Instances. “A part of his homage to punk trend,” she wrote on October 12, 1993. “It wasn’t very uplifting, however a number of the garments have been enjoyable.” No marvel he started to really feel the label of enfant horrible was extra albatross than encomium. Les Tatouages featured nearly 100 seems to be by which Gaultier took his viewers on a picaresque trend journey, from Camden crusties to medieval saints, from sensual to religious, however what got here throughout loud and clear by means of all that beautiful selection was the self-discipline and the peerless craft Gaultier had acquired from his years working within the French trend business. He may drape Christy Turlington like Scheherazade (her headgear an clever composition of tin can tops!), however he may additionally tailor a imply frock coat or a pinstriped jacket, or replace Christian Dior’s New Look in a full-skirted denim patchwork. For some time, there was buzz about Gaultier heading to the highest job at Dior. He later claimed his stint as co-host of television’s gamy Eurotrash doomed his candidacy, and John Galliano bought the gig. His innate punkitude meant he couldn’t resist thumbing his nostril at custom. Males in skirts? You bought it. Naked breasts and pierced nipples? No downside. Nonetheless, even along with his iconoclastic bent, I noticed nobody else flying the style flag larger or extra creatively for France than Jean Paul Gaultier.
How ironic it was that he was so good at creating iconic photographs. His most well-known one, the secular deity Madonna in her cone bra (she would stroll for him in his subsequent present) had competitors right here from the finale of Les Tatouages, shimmering saints in heavenly crowns, adopted by Eugenie and Tanel, every with one arm sheathed in armour, evoking Joan of Arc, essentially the most iconic French saint of all. It was one final enthralling picture from an completely uplifting present. Sure, Bernadine, I did sayuplifting!
The photographs on this evaluation are courtesy of INDIGITAL.television / FashionAnthology.com.