Le Smoking & Le Menswear at Jean Paul Gaultier

Where to start with this season’s Jean Paul Gaultier collection: Le Smoking part? Le tuxedo part? Le menswear part? Which got everyone a little confused, but suitably surprised, to begin with as we went a solid five-plus looks deep before we got to some womenswear. And when we did, it was Anna Cleveland striding her way down that runway, undoing a cummerbund situation that was then – we think – a jacket but she did that magic trick further down the catwalk and it is a mighty long catwalk. 

Anna Cleveland at the Jean Paul Gaultier Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION. 

Monochrome, be it menswear (an exciting and telling new move) or womenswear, it all derived from that famed fashion phenomenon Le Smoking suit. But it went above and beyond that which, potentially, to a non-smoking and health-conscious audience could be a little contentious such was the creativity at play to make one of the more controversial health pastimes a full-on fashion pursuit. Because it wasn’t just the smoking jackets and overarching eveningwear sensibility (extending to seating which came with the names Dry Martini, Appletini, etc), it was the very act of le fumez, too. 

Case in point: the final look was a puff of lingering smoke, a trail of there-not-there haze as if one was wandering through the fumes. And even before that, another look came with a billowing back as though one was mid fumez. The catwalk entrance, too, had that billowy gust of grey, while the JPG HQ was adorned with Bond-like murals to capture the suit, the mood. It was unapologetic. But that’s JPG. 

Jean Paul Gaultier Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION. 

And controversial though it potentially is (insert relevant dot-joining of fashion as being aspirational akin to smoking as being aspirational – kids, it’s not!), it takes a heck of a designer to create a dress and a collection based on Le Smoking, take it further to being about smoking, and do so with such innovation. That last dress was, to remind you, a waft of fumes! Controversial maybe, but creative too, and you have to acknowledge that. Give him a subject, any subject, and one imagines – well they know – that JPG can cook up quite a storm. And he’s one of the only designers left to do so. Something that, yes, comes down to experience, but also to having a sense of humour. Which this collection did. Where did the fezzes come from? It didn’t really matter because they looked great. It all felt rather Casablanca. 

And, one of fashion’s most empowering and iconic looks – the smoking jacket, originally by YSL, took menswear and gave it to womenswear at a time when they didn’t necessarily have a lot else and even at the time it was deemed incredibly controversial! – it was rendered in a multitude of ways and one couldn’t help but think some of JPG’s Hermès days snuck in there, too, for some equestrian meets Victoriana, especially on the menswear. 

Jean Paul Gaultier Couture Fall/Winter 2018 show in Paris. Photo by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION. 

A little ring master, a little jodhpur, a little frou and froth, a little fez care of Stephen Jones (who was there to watch his creations in situ), there were hair braids and ponytails for earrings and wader-style boots, bustiers for two – for him and for her – and for smoker-smokers there were cigarettes behind the ears. 

Could we take any of this as an insight and prelude to the designer’s forthcoming Fashion Freak Show in the fall? For that will be one massive show, a revue of the designer’s early life and career with Nile Rogers of Chic on music. Who knows? 

What we do know? The glamour of smoking is questionable...but it’s quite a French thing to do.