Talk about a new entente cordiale. A meeting of the enfant terrible of Paris fashion Jean-Paul Gaultier and the high priestess of tough romanticism, Irish-born Simon Rocha, in a haute couture collection of exceptional quality and creativity.
Rocha riffing precisely but never exhaustively on key elements of Jean-Paul’s DNA, yet always marrying them with her own cool sense of sensual nostalgia.
“I adored it. I’d say 12 points for Ireland, and what a collection! France with Irish-Chinese influences. Simone understood my codes, she injected humor and gave emotion and wit, which I loved,” enthused Gaultier in the backstage, as Kylie Jenner, Baz Luhrmann and Kelly Rutherford feted this unique show.
The collection marked the fifth by a guest designer at Gaultier couture – following Chitose Abe, Glenn Martens, Olivier Rousteing and Haider Ackermann. But while the others contained some great clothes, they could all drift into pastiche. Rocha’s take on Jean-Paul was very much the most in synch with Gaultier’s sense of cool kicky grandeur.
From the opening look, an almost hallucinatory sheer metallic organza crinoline, finished in hand-painted motifs of starbursts and serpents. Or a perfect Simone Gaultier marriage of a mega-laced-up corset dress in silk duchesse with trailing suspenders and cut-out back exploding in tulle. Talk about un marriage de mode made in heaven.
Throughout were Rocha’s witty touches – from hand painted organza tatouages to red shamrock crystal bra designs. Where previous guests have slavishly evoked clichéd sailor ideas, Rocha dreamed up a naval femme fatale with sailor’s cap in a remarkable composite mini dress with a ruffled soutien gorge and crystal embroidered tulle ribbons. And she had eyes flickering in the front row with a slimline bustle dress in ivory silk organza embroidered in lace feathers.
One could imagine the enthusiasm Gaultier’s Paris atelier must have working with Rocha. Whipping up an archival style green/black taffeta coat with a petal like conical bra. While Rocha’s obsession with pearls led to another divine corset dress finished with scores of baroque pearl strands.
Everything anchored with feather encrusted versions of Rocha’s preferred plexiglass court shoes and platform brogues.
“Jean-Paul gave me full license, which I loved. It felt like a real gift. So, I focused on Gaultier loving the collection. That was really all I wanted to do. It has been an amazing experience. I started with the glove and breasts and the female form – exploring and harnessing that and what it did to the garment and fabrication. And looking at a second skin on the body,” Rocha explained.
Overall, the collection and show felt very much a respectful ode to the métier of couture. A relatively small audience perched on plywood school chairs; a runway covered in silver foil, and a soundtrack by ace show DJ Frederic Sanchez that mashed up the opera arias of classic couture with the rock of Gaultier runways.
One always felt that Simone was visibly celebrating her discovery of a couture atelier and its secrets. She even respected Gaultier’s runway of show program, where each look is meticulously itemized often using French couture terms – aigu, maille bloquée, silk cigaline or soutien gorge, meaning needle heel, blocked yarn knits, transparent silk and bra. Of which there were many in this show.
As Simone feminized Gaultier’s famed Madonna conical bras, with a version that twisted up almost like a tongue.
Working with a couture atelier, Rocha told FashionNetwork.com, was “incredible, so artisanal, to have the ability to make dreams come true and to have that openness to take incredible historical technique and bring it into a modern today!”
All told, the most original couture show so far in the four-day seasons of 30 official shows. Not bad going for a Paris debut.
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