PARIS: Glamorous dandys in riding coats, top hats and turbans worked their charm on the fashion pack Wednesday as Jean Paul Gaultier headlined the last day of the Paris haute couture shows.
The French designer played for his autumn-winter look with a cabaret spirit full of nods to a bygone era, with more than 50 silhouettes both male and female that ranged from smoking room elegance to the outright decadent.
The spark for the collection was a period film starring the rocker Pete Doherty, the 19th-century set “Confessions of a Child of the Century”, which Gaultier saw as a juror at the Cannes festival in May.
“He plays a decadent dandy, but with a lot of charm and seduction,” the couturier said backstage. “When I came out of the film, I just said 'He is going to be my collection'.” Black catsuits of wool, velvet or billowing silk were buttoned all down the back or slashed open to the base of the spine, worn with tiny cropped jackets and little 1920s resille nets over the hair.
“A dandyish woman, conquering but seductive,” was how the designer summed up the look.
Half a dozen men strutted their stuff with the girls, one South Asian model sporting crocodile jodhpurs and turban, while the androgynous model Andrej Pejic stepped out in an asymmetric dinner suit, half sheer and half opaque.
Come evening, Gaultier turned up the glamour dial with a fluffy fox fur bolero in bands of pale pink, cream and blue.
There were cheers as the supermodel Karlie Kloss swept past in a glittering gold catsuit and enormous, billowing cape of black and gold, and as another sashayed out in a cage-like golden corset, and nothing else.
And last, the bride – as per custom in the haute couture world – in a back-to-front ivory riding coat, unbuttoned to reveal the shoulder blades, with vast white skirts and white top hat.
Earlier the Lebanese red carpet specialist Elie Saab sent out a series of infinitely delicate black dresses, in lace or pearl and glitter embroidery, and bare-backed gowns in shades of gold: matte and shiny, white, yellow and pink.
Midnight blue set the tone at the Italian Valentino where designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Picciolo created sumptuous evening gowns of fine pleated chiffon, playing on contrasts between sheer and opaque.
Earlier, the French designer Frank Sorbier went high-tech to retell a dark 17th-century fairytale.
“Donkeyskin” tells of a widowed king set on marrying his own daughter, who escapes his clutches by demanding a series of impossible gowns, the colour of the sky, moon or sun.
Sorbier's princess stood on stage in a white ball gown, onto which he beamed images of her story, to visually-gorgeous effect, from the aurora borealis to pictures of the open road to suggest her flight.
For the happy ending, when she wins the love of a prince, butterflies flutter up the white gown and away, into the blue sky beyond.
“The collection is a bridge between the past, the present and what the future could be,” Sorbier told AFP. At the other end of the spectrum, the young French-Chinese designer Yiqing Yin took the living world as starting point.
Modelled to the sound of waves, fragile creations in silvery grey and blue were crafted from ultra-fine pleats like the soft inside of a mushroom, twisted and bunched into organic patterns.
Delicate black-edged grey feathers adorned the spine, shoulders and V-neck of a sleeveless dress, while a tiny draped dress of sheer silver silk glimmered iridescent blue as the model walked.
Shooting through the pale palette was a show-stopping red dress, with long-sleeved bodice of pierced, patterned suede and swishing knee-length skirt.
The young woman told AFP said she was aiming for a form of “demure sensuality” with clothes that let the wearer “reveal more or less” as they wish.