March 01, 2011 Paris
Gaga may be famous for being late, but this particular extravaganza got started without much delay. There was barely enough time to take in the set (an elevated runway lined with wooden arches built to resemble a grand cathedral nave)—let alone read the extensive show notes, which detailed Formichetti's many collaborators, including designer Sébastien Peigné, late of Balenciaga—before the lights dimmed and the first model vamped her way down the catwalk, clutching at the church columns. Her outfit: a black pantsuit with the exaggerated, peaked shoulders that design superstar Thierry Mugler made famous in the eighties, accompanied here by a pair of positively towering platform stilettos.
There was another pantsuit in radzimir and a trench in patent; at least that's what they looked like—atmospherics being the order of the night, the stage wasn't well enough lit to know for sure. And then, 11 tailored looks into the show, Gaga emerged from behind the photographer's pit in molded black bra, sheer bodysuit, and long black hobble skirt. She sported platinum-blond extensions underneath a triangle hat, and she was smoking—in both the literal and figurative senses. In fact, Gaga had better balance on her platform wedges than many of the professional models did on their own precarious heels.
The pop icon came back later for another round all in white—corset, bodysuit, long skirt, and a stole that she flicked and twirled like a whip. In between, her supporting cast appeared in see-through knits and latex pants, furs with the Mugler shoulders, body-stocking dresses with sheer insets on the torso, and pieces of wearable sculpture by Rein Vollenga. Dubbed "post-human android-goddess" in the show notes, the latter sometimes looked not unlike a football player's pads. It all came out at warp speed to Gaga's "Born This Way"—and, like we said, the lighting wasn't great—but it didn't blow you away, either in its affinities to Thierry Mugler's originals or with its future vision.
The collective vibe as Gaga's magic spell dispersed and the crowd shuffled into the night was one of bemused disappointment. Backstage, though, was another story. There, Formichetti was surrounded by the kind of clamoring mosh pit you're more likely to associate with his collaborator. "Fun is making a comeback," he said. "Mugler was a fashion god for me. It was more than fashion, though, it was entertainment." In that regard—and it's not one you can dismiss easily in our wired world—Formichetti and co. nailed it. But will Gaga be available next season? Maybe so. Formichetti also informed us that his biggest fan has already "bought the entire collection in every color."