In case you didn't get it, the clues were all there: Vodka shots and caviar were passed around on trays, and Kateryna Yushchenko, the wife of that hero of democracy, the president of the Ukraine, arrived smilingly and took a seat in the front row (incidentally with far less of a bodyguard kerfuffle than darling Christina Aguliera down the block).
Yes, Jean Paul Gaultier was back in the former U.S.S.R. for fall. For those who are counting, this was his second visit of the season, after his previous excursion with the Bolsheviks and Cossacks at Hermès. But trust the expansive mind of Gaultier to make the most of a season's theming and scheming. This collection, rich and folkloric as it was, also managed a knowing wink at the swirling, tiered gypsy skirts that were the massive hit of his own spring ready-to-wear line.
In truth, those skirts and their gazillion copies have spawned such a ubiquitous trend that one shouldn't have to look at anything "hippie deluxe" for another 20 years. Still, so fabulously did Gaultier apply lushness and craft, restraint and color to the year's most done idea that he actually got away with it.
He began with tight-waist redingotes with fur skirts and baggy pants tucked into fur-edged boots, but didn't stray too far into theme to prevent an amazing navy taffeta trench (more Paris than Moscow) with huge collars and a voluminous skirt from joining in the march. Some of the most gorgeous pieces appeared in silk velvet: a teal pantsuit, a deep-purple peasant dress with a drawstring neckline, a soft antique-blue bag embroidered with silver beads and slung on a chain across the body.
For night, he showed wondrous visions dreamed up from religious icons, folk art, and Asiatic ethnic costume. A babushka's black shawl, done up in pompom-trimmed velvet fishnet, delicately rested over a lace blouse with vast puff sleeves. And finally, there was the gypsy skirt to end them all: a miracle of micro-ruffled tiered lamés, tinted in gold and pale green, and overlaid with bands of lace. Like all Gaultier's standout pieces, it transcended momentary fashion cavils to qualify as a collector's item any woman would want to own forever. Which is surely as valid an argument for the specialness of haute couture as any other.