Just days before Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2020 couture show in January last year, the designer revealed that it would be his final show. However, Gaultier made his return this couture week with a new announcement: The house will invite a new creator to design the collection every season starting with Sacai’s designer Chitose Abe. Dubbed ‘Gaultier Paris by Sacai’ Abe also brought in her own collaborators, with Pierre Hardy lending his magic to footwear, as well as prints designed by tattoo artists Dr. Woo. Sacai also worked with Nike to produce two pairs of sneakers for the collection.
The house’s iconic elements made perfect sense with Sacai’s streetwear aesthetics, which is perhaps not surprising as both Abe and Gaultier are known to extensively explore the juxtaposition of femininity and masculinity, albeit in very different ways.
The conical bra corset, first introduced in Gaultier’s 1987 collection, ignited controversy and made music history, when Madonna wore a custom-made version during her 1990 Blond Ambition tour. In Abe’s rendition, the cones now form part of the bustiers on Sacai’s iconic trench-inspired dresses, and gowns that seemed to be made from deconstructed MA1 nylon bombers.
The navy striped marinière shirt has permeated Jean Paul Gaultier’s DNA with countless incarnations in his collections, even in the ‘Le Male’ perfume bottle. The marinière was used by Gaultier as a tongue in cheek parody of Parisian cliche. In Abe’s version the stripes are created with layers of contrasting satin and tulle, marrying her penchant for deconstruction with the Parisian aesthetic of imperfect perfection.
Other highlights include the upcycling of vintage denim and Abe’s twists on traditional tailoring, all reframed in Gaultier’s avant garde silhouettes. Jeans are pieced together to create a full skirt, and pinstripe suiting morphs into a puffer jacket, which, formed a playful bubble skirt when cinched by a matching corset.
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Gaultier is known for blurring gender stereotypes, subverting conventional notions of sensuality, and empowering women in ways that were ahead of his time. This collaboration with Sacai demonstrates how a strong and clear aesthetic like that of Gaultier can be so intriguing when reframed with a fresh eye. We definitely can’t wait to see what’s next for the house.