Gaultier does a cancan-punk haute-couture mash-up

26th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Jean Paul Gaultier mashed up high-stepping French cancan with street-wise London punk and his signature horizontal stripes on Wednesday on the final day of the Paris summer haute couture shows.

Ditching the usual throbbing techno soundtrack, the ever-innovative French designer had the recorded voice of Catherine Deneuve soberly introduce each look by number and technical description.

It was the veteran film star herself -- seated in the front row alongside Spanish director Pedro Almodovar -- who came up with the idea, Gaultier explained.

"She recalled to me my first collections, which I presented like that," he said backstage, sporting a mohawk like many of his models on the runway at his elegant studios on Rue Saint Martin in the capital's garment district.

"I always like for my collections to be a show, but this method has a professional side that demands concentrating on the garment, to better see what is going on."

Fusing the skill of classic haute couture with the whimsy of cancan and the non-conformism of punk, Gaultier incorporated wide horizontal stripes, sometimes in leather, into many of his designs.

"I wanted something very modern, slashed, sharp and graphic," he said, summing up his collection as "very flowing, very pleated, very Paris".

A black silk trench coat of unusual brilliance set the tone, and indeed black was the dominant colour, with a monochrome tubular gown with razor-sharp shoulders particularly eye-catching.

For the wedding dress, the bride was a man: the Bosnian-born and very androgynous Australia model Andrej Pejic, who Gaultier cast as the gun-toting blonde femme fatale at his James Bond-themed menswear show last week.

In other shows, French couturier Frank Sorbier -- a quirky free spirit -- had his models descend a staircase at Sotheby's auction rooms, then mount a big rotating circle that enabled guests to admire their looks at every angle.

His dramatic opening number was a delicate white papier mache bodice with scribbled slogans topping a black mermaid skirt, with the model's hair swept high and covered in floor-length black stole.

Under the subheading "Manhattan", he showed handpainted coats in silk satin with sharp lapels, in all the colours of the rainbow, with primitive African-inspired motifs, worn over ultra-tight black leggings picked out in whorls of pearls and mother-of-pearl buttons.

For "the French touch" he came up with variations on the little black dress in the house of Sorbier's hallmark compressed, overstitched silk chiffon and tulle, which had a vintage feel.

Highlight of the show was an almost mystical sequence dubbed "Shamanic songs" of dresses and coats in patchworks of beige velours cut like animal pelts, with long fringes, and geometric motifs in ochre, black and tan.

The Lebanese designer Elie Saab, a specialist in red-carpet dressing, opened with a long sequence of gowns in shades of tea rose pink: wispy confections of lace, with sheer chiffon bloused over bare backs, sprinklings of crystals and spatterings of sequins.

This season Saab put extra emphasis on the waist with matt petersham ribbons tied demurely in big bows at the back.

But his models looked too young and unsophisticated to carry off black versions of his evening gowns aimed at his A-list customers. Far from glamorous, they looked as if they were playing at dressing up from their mothers' wardrobe.

© 2011 AFP

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