Jean Paul Gaultier has always been a creative virtuoso; after all, it's what has kept him in fashion's good books for as long as we can remember despite his French moniker 'L'enfant terrible'. Having never missed a trick throughout his glorious fifty-year stint in fashion, Gaultier's imagination is wilder than most. His creative endeavours have spanned both music and presenting, alongside his main forte (if you're too young to remember the zeitgeist led 90s hit Eurotrash, treat yourself to a quick YouTube search, you will not be disappointed). He's even been somewhat of an ambassador (short-lived nonetheless) for Diet Coke, appearing in one of their adverts as a puppet master. With his fingers in many pies over the years, Gaultier has never been one to stick to what he knows. Instead, he's chosen to lend his creativity to neighbouring industries, always exploring far and wide - looking to what he can do next to keep fashion on its toes. Despite announcing his retirement from fashion last year, instead installing guest designers at the couture-only brand, Gaultier has still of course found a way to surprise fashion once again. This time, it's from the sidelines.
Over the weekend, the Jean Paul Gaultier label posted a relatively simple message on Instagram that couldn't have been less confusing if it tried; 'The end.' The two simple words left fans fretting and fashion folk frantic with the possibility that this could be the end of an era for fashion's beloved 'enfant terrible'. Quickly removing their profile picture entirely after the caption-less post, the label then went a step further to consolidate everyone's worst fears - changing their Instagram bio to quite literally read 'The end of an era'. After everything the designer has gifted the fashion industry, it felt almost impossible that his journey would stop here and so abruptly at that. Surely this was just one of his wicked tricks?
Fortunately, it was. Of course it was; this is Jean Paul Gaultier, after all. Fashion was pulled out of a state of panic state as quickly as it was thrown in, and the label's social media account fired up with a new video accompanied by the hashtag #FutureisCollective. Potentially a more cryptic message than the last, it was hopeful at least, leaving fashion hanging on the edge of its seat.
Brand logos such as Charlotte Wales, Palomo, Pierre Hardy and Ottolinger (along with many others) all featured in the montage clip, leading fans to pose their next question...are there more collaborations heading our way under the Jean Paul Gaultier name? The luxury house's profile icon reappeared, and so did a new bio underneath, this time reading, 'Welcome to the new era of Jean Paul Gaultier.' The house has undergone a few changes of late; one of them being that their couture line is now solely run by guest creative directors (next up is Sacai, whose show was delayed due to COVID-19) - could this 'guest curator' trend be spreading across the Jean Paul Gaultier universe and into a relaunch of ready-to-wear? Yes, that is precisely what's happening.
Jean Paul Gaultier stopped doing ready-to-wear six years ago to focus on couture. Now he's left his position of being in charge of couture to guest designers so that he can retire. His creative vision and design legacy has supposedly been left in the hands of his in-house team and creatives such as Chitose Abe of Sacai; a strategy that's we're yet to see in action (considering COVID and all). The house are now set to release several ready-to-wear collections a year, designed by guest collaborators and the in-house team.
With the first of its kind ready-to-wear show making its debut this Friday 28 May, rumour has it the house is introducing a digital-first approach that will see the new collection sold through the brand's online store and platform Ssense.com. It'll be interesting to see how the designer's vision and legacy will be carried on despite his relative absence. (Don't worry, he's not gone for good, 'He's still working with us on different aspects of the brand', his manager Antoine Gagey told WWD, and he also has significant involvement in choosing the guest designers too.)
So, for now, we can all breathe a sigh of relief at the fact that our 'enfant terrible' will not be leaving fashion altogether; all that's left to do is sit tight till the show. Should we expect breton stripes, conical bras and tattoos? Without Jean Paul Gaultier designing, who knows where the brand's legacy will go next.