'Farida Khelfa and Paquita Paquin are here!' 'Do you think Grace Jones is going to appear on the catwalk?' Whispers of awe and speculation preceded Jean Paul Gaultier’s latest show, which prompted a general sense of expectation since the moment the audience got their tickets - a replica of the entrance tickets to the infamous Le Palace nightclub, Paris’ 1970’s response to Studio 54.
And, sure enough, there were the doors to the legendary discothèque, complete with neon lights and a lipstick-clad bouncer mimicking Edwige Belmore, Le Palace’s original portière and one of Gaultier’s close friends who recently passed away. There were also all of the day’s celebrities, posing under the photographers’ flashes just like they used to back in 1978. It all sparked a very distinct sense of nostalgia. Then, among disco sounds, out came the first model, wearing a simple black pyjama piped in white. As she nonchalantly kissed the bouncer and strolled down the catwalk as you do when leaving a club at 4am, we knew it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy the showmanship and the sense of freedom that are so unique to Jean Paul.
As they appeared, models gave each other the side eye, smoked, chewed gum, laughed, spilled champagne… It was all really casual and easy. Except it was not. This was Gaultier reminding us, with an overwhelming sense of comfort, why he is an unequalled master at his trade: the loungewear in particular, sequined and brocaded, felt at once louche and comfortable, classic and on trend. Some of it felt like an ode to Sonia Rykiel, Azzedine Alaïa and Yves Saint Laurent, an appropriate thing to do since it was them who conferred to Le Palace its sartorial identity. The more overtly rock & roll-influenced looks were less stunning, but still worked well with the rest of the collection, as did the silk pieces mimicking distressed denim.
The finale saw a stamina-full Gaultier dancing on the catwalk surrounded by all his models, and as guests exited the room, comments everywhere versed on how 'nobody does anything like this anymore. Times have changed…' Which indeed they have. In a way, such a sense of sentimental longing left us feeling sad. Maybe Jean Paul Gaultier hasn’t gotten over time passing? Maybe he is still living in that long-gone golden era? Maybe he doesn’t care about being relevant to younger generations? One thing is sure though. One always walks away from his shows with a feeling of having seen something genuinely fun, full of style and substance. There is no maybe about that.