Gaultier proves spirit intact in first show since sale

Wed Jul 6, 2011 5:43pm EDT
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By Nick Vinocur

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Jean-Paul Gaultier turned models into movie stars on Wednesday in a theatrical display for his fall-winter haute couture collection, proving he has lost none of his taste for fun since the sale of his brand.

Fashionistas packed the benches at Gaultier's Right Bank headquarters to see if the irreverent French designer had altered his approach since May, when Hermes sold a controlling stake in his brand to Spanish fashion group Puig.

But any doubts were laid to rest from the outset of the show, which kicked off with a 30-minute delay, as a statuesque model emerged onto the runway in a bold, pinstripe pant-suit.

Drawing on his alternate persona as a costume designer for the movies, Gaultier sent out every model in cinematic style with a shifting musical score, atmospheric touches, and plenty of Hollywood glamour.

Except for a black evening dress that drew a peal of applause, the show was vintage Gaultier, with few concessions to mass market appeal in spite of a new paymaster who promises to make the struggling brand profitable by 2016.

"Gaultier is one of my closest, dearest, oldest friends and I am just so excited to support him at such a momentous time in his career," said Milla Jovovich, a Ukrainian-born actress and model who starred in Luc Besson's 1997 film, "The Fifth Element," for which Gaultier designed the costumes.

Gaultier emerged as one of the leading young talents in French fashion during the early 1980s, shaking up the establishment with wild designs drawn from street culture, punk and the leather-and-chains gay scene.

The wild side of his early years was on full display at the show as models strutted the catwalk puffing cigarettes and men appeared wearing frilly skirts, massively oversized coats and, in one case, a full beard and waxed mustache.   Continued...

<p>French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier (C) waves as he walks outside after his Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2011/2012 fashion show in Paris July 6, 2011. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes</p>