PARIS (AP) — An enfant terrible appeared in a new guise on Wednesday as designer Olivier Rousteing of Balmain took a one-off shot at a couture collection for the house of Jean Paul Gaultier.
Such was the excitement surrounding the event that roads were blocked and security stretched over 100 yards, tangling traffic in all directions. The show was fashionably late. That may have had something to do with Kim Kardashian. She arrived tardily with her daughter North West in outfits referencing the 1992 heyday of Madonna and Gaultier, who sat in the front row sipping champagne and laughing almost all the way through.
Here are some highlights of the fall-winter 2022 couture collections:
ROUSTEING DOES GAULTIER
Taking the codes of Gaultier -- such as structured tailoring, Breton striped nautical tops and the conical bra -- Rousteing let his hair down on Wednesday for an infectious and tongue-in-cheek fashion homage to Jean Paul Gaultier, who retired from couture in 2020 after a 50-year runway career.
It was all about the quirk. Rousteing took Gaultier’s torso-shaped perfume bottle “Le Male,” which features a metal strap under the nozzle -- and turned it into several looks. Garnering applause from the enthusiastic audience, one model strutted forth with a metal choker, striped glass top and tin micro mini. Elsewhere the famed pinstriped menswear tuxedo jacket, with voluminous proportions, was reimagined beneath a body-shaped corset.
There were genuinely touching moments, such as when two models walked together in pregnant conical bra looks in black and flesh, touching their bellies. That was seen as a political statement supporting lesbians having medically assisted reproduction, something the French parliament allowed last year.
Beyond homage, this couture was definitely very Rousteing. He fused his personal styles upon the Gaultier house codes and many of the styles -- flowing capes, caps and layering -- captured ones seen before on the Balmain runway.
In purely aesthetic terms, many of the looks veered off into pastiche or costume. Nobody seemed to mind.
KARDASHIAN DOES MADONNA
A blond Kardashian and daughter spurred a dazzle of paparazzi snaps walking up the stone steps of central Paris’ Gaultier HQ dressed in the image of Madonna when she controversially appeared — with exposed breasts — with Jean Paul Gaultier at a 1992 amfAR fundraiser in Los Angeles, California.
The styling was flawless in this homage, in which Kardashian channeled the pinstriped Gaultier dress that at the time spawned headlines around the world. Kardashian’s version here was more tame, with skin-colored inserts. West wore a waistcoat, like the couturier did as he held hands with his then best friend, for whom he designed several garments including the conical bra look for the singer’s Blond Ambition tour.
The old Gaultier faithful, such as Spanish actress and muse Rossy de Palma, were out in force to support the effort — alongside a speckling of RuPaul's Drag Race stars, including Simone and Gigi Goode.
ELIE SAAB’S SUPERNATURAL
There was something shamanic in the air at Elie Saab, as the Lebanese designer fused his usual show-stopping fare with the supernatural in a rare co-ed show.
Flame red and charcoal black feathers, which seemed to burn up the skirt of the first black gown in a V, set the otherworldly tone.
There was an ethnic feel to the textures and patterns, and a nice geometry in the garment’s pared-down straps that exposed the model’s flesh.
Another piece, a high priest-cum-bird look, was surely the piece de resistance: A red-black feathered A-line cape with strong shoulders worn on a male model that powerfully swept the floor. With its intricate white embroidered patterning resembling a totem, it was an impressive piece of design.
A sorceress feel infused other creations, such as one bejeweled, silver-tasseled number with a sparkling choker that seemed to hark from a fantasy movie. It was worn on a model with swept-back hair and nude makeup.
The French couturier and lover of art and theater took his audience back in time on Wednesday to a Renaissance universe of court jesters, fairytale maidens and cantering horses.
In the cobbled courtyard of a historic grand townhouse, a saxophonist played on stone steps as a horse grazed at his feet. Then a damsel descended from two carved wooden doors, wearing a bleeding red velvet gown with voluminous full skirt to lead the horse away. A court jester appeared in an amorphous white bib featuring playing card motifs, as a model in pigtails and a baby pink textured gown with capped sleeves offered out candy floss. Her skirt, cut on the bias and slightly dropped, had heavy ripples that moved with a stylish swagger.
And then a man in tails and 19th century top hat rode in on a Penny Farthing bicycle.
Groups of men and women entered the courtyard scuffling in stylized black, funeral-style tailored ensembles. One female model had a mafia-style hat and long silk scarf -- and looked like the head of some feuding crime clan.
The fusion of performance with fashion made for a highly memorable spectacle.
MARGIELA’S CINEMA INFERNO
A 30-minute play in which two lovers — one pregnant, the other bleeding out — drive through the desert was Maison Margiela’s couture offering for fall.
The “assemblage performance” at Palais de Chaillot was the brainchild of designer John Galliano, who created a weird “Southern Gothic” tale set in Arizona.
Melodrama was everywhere. One model was shot to the corny yet brilliant words of “she dropped like an old coat falling from a hanger.”
Yet in terms of couture, it was hard to see the clothes.
Only when the post-performance roll call occurred could guests get a cohesive sense of the collection — and that at a distance — featuring femme fatale gowns, crumpled cowboy hats, thick layered jackets and shotguns. There was even a white bunny ear cap worn by a model on an amorphous layered tulle dress in virgin white.
The best looks were classic Galliano, who always has an eye on historic, fluid dress codes. Model Anna Cleveland wore the piece de resistance — a giant pink silk ball gown with a loosely fitted torso and parachute skirt that was gathered funkily at the front. It was twinned anachronistically with a 1920s bright red swimming cap.