One of Jean Paul Gaultier's most enduringly charming qualities is the way he incorporates his own loyalties, passions, and (but of course) Frenchness into his collections. On November 28, 2007, Fred Chichin, one half of the legendary French pop duo Rita Mitsouko, died of a particularly vicious cancer. He was a Parisian style icon, along the lines of Serge Gainsbourg, and with Catherine Ringer, the remaining Rita, in the audience, Gaultier paid tribute to Chichin's dandified aestheticwhich was, unsurprisingly, entirely compatible with the designer's own take on male glamour.
From the opening numbertwo gents dripping in droog-y attitude, with bowlers, black silk cravats, suspenders, and brollies at the ever-readythe designer orchestrated a spectacular return to form. "Twisted classic" would be the best description for a master-tailored camel coat with a black leather revers, or the brushed tweed coat that wrapped baggy pants. (Charlie Chaplin is one of the season's unlikelier reference pointsthe little fitted jackets and baggy pants even came with bowler hats in this show.) Chichin's approach to dressing was helpfully iconoclastic, so Gaultier could get away with formal shawl collars on sporty blazers in houndstooth and a jaunty awning stripe. Suits in plaid and pinstripe boasted trousers with a tracery of leather filigree down the front (they were tucked into boots). The effect was kind of gamekeeper-on-a-big-clothing-budget.
Heads draped in scarves and topped with bowlers had a Romany vibe, but Gaultier insisted there was nothing folkloric in the collection, even with mosaic-patterned knits. It was all about a magpie like Chichin coming back from his travels with bits and pieces he'd absorb into his own wardrobe, which was enough to refresh Gaultier's memory about his own magpie tendencies. Now, if only one could be confident that these clothes would actually see the light of day in his shops