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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture, Spring 2012.

The fashion world isn't known for its careful handling of sensitive subjects, so a couture collection inspired by Amy Winehouse, a mere six months after her death, wasn't as surprising as it might have been in a different industry.

They say Winehouse had iconic style, but much of that was down to hair and makeup. Her particular brand of kitschy rockabilly-lite came into its own after she hit the A-list (and therefore probably had a stylist), and wasn't far off the street-style of hundreds of other Camdenites. The beehive wig and cat-eye makeup are memorable enough that they make for a recognisable Amy Winehouse look when combined with almost any outfit.
Gaultier is known for his corsets; for elaborate sexiness. Winehouse was known for trashiness, imbued with the infamy of all talented young addicts who die young in the public eye. This collection managed to take enough inspiration from Winehouse that the influence was visible in at least half of the outfits, but avoided heavy-handedness. It succeeded for the same reason as why most Couture designs inspired by, say, Marilyn Monroe or Grace Kelly, are doomed to critical failure these days. Marilyn and Grace are both remembered for wearing sumptuous gowns and movie-costume formalwear (and in Grace Kelly's case, literally becoming a princess) so any couture line drawing inspiration from them is going to end up looking like unimaginative pastiche. But couture's need for luxury and experimentation meant that a direct copy of Amy Winehouse's pencil skirts, polka-dots and Camden Market attire was out of the question. It had to be tempered with the high-end gloss of classic Gaultier.

There were almost 70 looks in this show, meaning that it was more likely for anyone watching to find at least a few things they liked. I tried to pick out a fair sample of the collection as a whole, as opposed to just a few of my favourites (or most-loathed) as I normally would.

The vinyl leggings make this outfit entertainingly tacky, almost Halloween costume-ish, but I suppose it's conceivable that Winehouse might have worn it onstage. Her main fashion rule seemed to have been "make it tight", after all.
Tellingly, my first assumption was that this next outfit must have been taken from some paparazzi shot of Winehouse in a hotel bathrobe or similar. Is there a famous "Amy Winehouse in a dressing-gown" tabloid story? I have no idea. It seemed like a curious inclusion in the show, which aside from this was split evenly from direct Winehouse outfits (ie, 1950s pedal-pusher leggings, bodices, and pencil skirts) and straight-up Gaultier Couture.

Unsurprisingly, this kimono was one of my favourite looks. Unwearable in the context of everyday life, of course, but this is Couture, dahling.
There were a lot of veils in this collection, and this particular dress appeared both with and without, reappearing at the end as the traditional Couture wedding dress finale. A beautiful example of Gaultier structure-work, although that meant it looked as if it could have come from any number of his previous collections.
Mafia wife chic? Not far off Winehouse, I suppose. The colour scheme on the outfit below is far from appealing to me, but the look as a whole has a certain extravagant tackiness to it that makes me marvel a little. There have been quite a lot of scarf-dresses on the catwalks in recent months, but Gaultier gave this one enough structure that it doesn't look like the all-to-easily-faked scarf dresses of whoever it was who co-opted a truckload of Hermes for their show last season.

Andrej Pejic: a current favourite of Gaultier (among many others) and here paired interestingly with a dress that clearly both adjusts considerably around the torso (lacing everywhere, in an homage to... every Gaultier womenswear collection ever, I should think) and has enough bulk around the hips to disguise the fact that he's not quite the same shape as the other models.


By the latter half of the runway show, the theme was leaning more to the Couture end of the balance, especially since the veils showed up. Ordinarily I find translucent veils rather pointless since they're so inextricably linked with weddings, not to mention highly impractical and rarely worn. But almost every veil shown here was beautiful, adding another layer of patterns to otherwise simpler outfits. The outfit below would've been a fairly standard Gaultier dominatrix look, were it not for the intricate patterns embroidered (woven?) into the veil. Also it livens up that good ol' virgin/whore juxtaposition that the fashion world has been so fixated with since Madonna -- the New York one, that is, not the one from Galilee.

The gold-detailed veil below was one of my favourites. I'd be psyched to see this sort of thing in more real-life outfits, possibly in a skirt since I find the current trend for black mesh/translucent skirts to be very unattractive. If the mesh or tulle could be used as a backdrop to hold some sort of iridescent or colourful pattern, it'd stop the wearer looking like they'd forgotten to put on their overskirt.
While writing this, I realised that one way in which Amy Winehouse is an excellent choice for Gaultier is lingerie. Like Tracey Emin, Amy Winehouse was a great proponent of the "if you're wearing a good bra, show it off" school of dressing -- a philosophy to which I also ascribe, although perhaps not for every scenario (viz: job interviews; funerals). This dovetails conveniently with Gaultier's devotion to vintage underwear styles and visible corsetry.


  1. I am always a fan of pencil skirts and corsets, but that's probably a reflection of the fact that I'm not a fashion fan so I look at everything through the lens of would-it-look-good-on-me. That last lace-dress-thing I like too, the shaping of the collar and sleeves which steps out of the normal skintight fishnet/lace thing.

  2. whoa totally agree, that last veil is amazing.

  3. I love pencil skirts! They look great on more figures than the typical model figure, since they're less reliant on skinnyness (which often results in rectangular torsos). But for Couture something definitely needs to be done with them to make them look more interesting, otherwise it's just like, "oh look, a pencil skirt, i have 3 of those".