Earlier this week, the fashion industry was left scratching their heads as to what Jean Paul Gaultier had in store for them next. Having shuttered his ready-to-wear line in 2014, and announced the S/S 20 haute couture collection would be his last before handing over the reins to a roster of guest designers, fashion's enfant terrible announced he'd be bringing prêt-à-porter back to welcome in a new era at the French house.
Revealed this morning, the collection dropped online, and soon will be stocked at SSENSE. Revisiting the brand's archetypal silhouettes and reference points, it couldn't be more JPG if it tried. Over the years, the Les Marins (The Sailors) is a theme the designer has returned to tirelessly, with the blue and white stripe making its way from runway to those naughty Le Male perfume campaigns. The marinière forms the basis of the new collection, one half of which has been created by the in-house team, the other by five guest designers; Ottolinger, Palomo Spain, Lecourt Mansion, Alan Crocetti and Marvin M'Toumo.
The S/S 21 collection dives into the deep blue sea, encapsulating the nautical with the fantasy Gaultier has long combined in his theatrical and excessive runway shows. Playing the role of resident mermaid is none other than supermodel Bella Hadid. Seen as if through a porthole of a ship deep under the waves, filmmaker Charlotte Wales captures the Jean Paul Gaultier siren's song. Styled by Georgia Pendlebury and also featuring Omar Sesay and Qaher Harhash, there's echoes of the fish tank scene from Baz Lurhmann's Romeo + Juliet, with pop culture references also coming in thick and fast from Gaultier's own iconic archive.
The marinière is reimagined throughout the collection; Gaultier's fascination with the sailor figure comes from Rainer W.Fassbinder's erotic 1982 film Querelle. The haute couture atelier came on board to create six limited-edition takes on the striped top, including a cropped version and another featuring naval shoulder pads which is already sold out online. A corset hybrid is another highlight for the high-low dressers of today, ideally to be paired with a white or neon pink sailor's hat (memorably worn by muse Tanel Bedrossaintz for S/S 96), or a kinky leather neck tie with inbuilt piercing ring, nodding to the perverted side of the brand we've all come to adore.
Available immediately and released outside of fashion week, the line coincides with LGBTQI+ Pride Month in the US, which begins next week. The Gaultier studio created a graffiti print for the collection which features slogans such as 'Dildo Save the Dyke' and 'Moule Sentimentale' - that's 'Sentimental Snatch' for you.
The five designers selected to interpet Jean Paul Gaultier's house codes all have diversity and inclusivity at their core, and were each invited to put their spin on a silhouette or accessory, reflecting the strong visual legacy of the brand. Alan Crocetti turns the conical bras made famous by Madonna into delicate pieces of jewellery, Marvin M'Toumo says you really can hear the ocean through pressing your ear to a shell with his accessories. Ottolinger's Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient psychedelic swirls in stretchy tulle cling to every inch of the body, male or female, whilst as Lecourt Mansion reimagine the Gaultier stripe in rhinestone.
Shop the collection here.