Jean Paul Gaultier likes to examine a theme like a naturalist would, until every last element has been considered, catalogued and exploited to its maximum potential. His couture collection was thus an entomologist’s inventory of the glittering and fluttering denizens of the cabaret. The silhouettes – and their monikers – all had something of a butterfly at their core. “Cardinale”, “Mélitée des Scabieuses” and “Mon Bel Orangé” evoked immediately the chatoyant palette of their namesakes.
The fantastic talent that Jean Paul Gaultier incorporates, like few other designers, is the ability to create such an ambiance that recaptures the desire of fashion, and the Fashion Moment. Opening with a set of elegant and restrained dark looks, enough to slake the appetites of his couture clients, the show soon went airborne. After the Mugler Follies, it was time for the Gaultier Follies. In a way, the couturier doesn’t really care that no one gets the purely Parisian references, such as Jacques Dutronc’s “Il est cinq heures”. To him, it’s go big or go home.
Feathers and glittering outfits also had the flavor of the Lido’s showgirls. And the presence of “effeuilleuse” extraordinaire Dita von Teese – who surprisingly didn’t open or close the show – coyly seductive in her butterfly corset, was only reinforcement of that fact. Given this was couture, there was a notion of taste and craftsmanship, but it was sometimes drenched in OTT. But the marinière look-a-like, ruffles subtly edged, red crystalized lips and fake cigarette, was fetching. The lacquered guipure looked geometric and modern. And his hand with actual garment design was on full display in a wine colored dress intricately pleated to look like a butterfly.
The week has seen quite a number of butterflies on the runways but none so blatantly celebratory as this. Those symbols of transitory beauty and transformation come at a moment where the entire world seems to be in mutation. Gaultier has always been one to spin trends on their heads and show everyone a good time; so maybe the Moulin Rouge extravaganza – there was even the Frédérique theme song – is a manifestation not of Gaultier-the-couturier but of his exquisite costuming of a universe.