Jean Paul Gaultier's cultural antennae have usually been acute, so early arrivals at his Couture show today, directed to seating blocks named "Dal" or "Chapati," could logically have assumed an Indian connection for the collection. And maybe they hoped that it might relate in some way to Life of Pi, the most gorgeous, humanist, vintage-Gaultier-like movie to offer itself for Oscar consideration in living memory. No such luck. What we got, instead, was more akin to Real Housewives of Mumbai, though Gaultier definitely scored the award for Couture's Aw-Shucks Moment when his bride hiked up her skirts to reveal four adorable mites who cascaded down the catwalk to the unmitigated delight of broody fashion folk of all genders. You could only be enchanted by the crowd-pleasing gall of such a gesture.
But Gaultier needed such enchantment to compensate for this collection. India's presence was maybe less prominent than the Gypsy flavor that is integral to the Gaultier aesthetic. (Anyway, Gypsies originally came from India.) The off-the-shoulder tops, the long skirts shaped over the hips, flaring to the floor, had a colorful fortune-teller vibe. Patchwork and fringe also had a flavor of the Gypsy encampment. Given that this was a Couture collection—and couture arrives laden with notions of taste and exquisite craftsmanship—there was something bordering on crass, even vulgar, about the presentation. And you scarcely needed the model at the finale, barely concealed by a cascade of violet silk jersey, to reinforce that fact.
But Gaultier has always been an iconoclast who lives to challenge the norm. Maybe the overwrought Real Housewives "vibrancy" of this presentation was the latest manifestation of that impulse. Or maybe it was a canny acknowledgement of the fact that, right now, there is a couture client somewhere in the world who lives for a gold python trenchcoat.