The key to Jean Paul Gaultier's latest collection could be found in the opening and closing outfits of his show. First up, a reconfigured trenchcoat in black gabardine. Last out, the same idea in white silk (worn by a bride who played herself down the runway—literally—with a violin). The trench is Gaultier's signature piece. The fact his latest show was bracketed by it suggested the collection was about him this time: not Mexico or Hollywood or Mars or anywhere else he might have been recently. Being the most Parisian of French fashion designers, that gave him a lot to work with. Being Jean Paul Gaultier gave him even more. So it was a crying shame the show didn't ultimately offer the thrills he once provided so routinely we almost came to take them for granted.
It started auspiciously enough, with Karlie Kloss in that trench, reconfigured with batwings (despite the Brides of Dracula gear later in the show, this was less vampire chic than an evocation of the glamorous heyday of Parisian haute couture). The pinstripe tailleur that followed, swathed in a huge silver fox, was a reminder of Gaultier's mastery of the masculine/feminine hybrid. The jacket with black mink cone breasts (and a butt to match) also revived an iconic moment in the designer's career. He exaggerated the silhouette of a biker jacket, then trimmed it with badger fur to give it a halo. That was clever. But he went on to use the same trick a few too many times, which left an impression of peculiar proportions. Same with the batwing shape, which turned to draggy droop at the drop of a hat.
Perhaps it wasn't so surprising, given Gaultier's stint at Hermès, that the most appealing pieces in the show were the most luxuriously simple: a twinset of cashmere cardigan coat and vest; an elegant black dress that was basically just a long silk cardigan reversed; an asymmetric evening gown of black jersey with a gusset of gold running down one side.
A long tweed and ostrich feather skirt paired with an asymmetric top in pleated black leather generated a round of audience applause, but not nearly as rousing as the one that greeted Dita Von Teese, on hand to publicize Gaultier's lingerie for La Perla the way she knows best. She managed to moon the audience twice.