Jean Paul Gaultier FALL 2023-24 COUTURE
The appearances of guest designers during couture week have become an anticipated highlight at the house of Jean Paul Gaultier. This time it was Julien Dossena, who works full-time at Rabanne, who was the one in the spotlight. His answer was full of vigour and emotion, and it was displayed so closely that we felt as though we could have reached out and touched the garments. “I wanted a feeling of characters you pass in the street in Paris,” he added. “I thought that would be interesting.” “I wanted to give each of them their own unique crown so that they could rule as queens.”
The privilege of being able to provide his interpretation to the work of a national treasure in the field of French haute couture could not have been appreciated with greater depth or sincerity. When I was a very young girl, Jean Paul was the very first fashion designer I ever saw on television. Observing him gave me my first taste of what it’s like to make a living in the fashion industry. The things that dad did (become) ingrained in my cultural upbringing in general. During lunch with his hero, Dossena learned that Gaultier had known the late fashion designer Paco Rabanne, who had gone away not long before. “He requested me to create something in his honour, and I agreed. But it was from him that I gained this absolute sense of liberty. One gets the impression that everything is possible when one is at one of the couture ateliers.
Dossena’s ability to update chainmail and transform it into new approaches in zillions of different ways has been one of the characteristics of his expertise at Rabanne. That, along with the twist on bohemian glamour that commonly appears in his collections, is also one of the signatures of Dossena’s genius. His unmistakable double-salute to Jean Paul Gaultier and Paco Rabanne was to create a silver chainmail duplicate of the renowned pointy-bra dress from Gaultier’s first collection in 1984. This garment was part of Gaultier’s debut. Rabanne was the designer of the original.
But the aspect of Gaultier’s work that really captured Dossena’s interest was the way he observed people on the street and included them in his work—decades before it became popular to do so. “Jean Paul was really the first to treat fashion as almost sociology, watching what people wear in the street and expressing communities in his shows,” Jean Paul was the first designer to do this. Bringing people together with a joyful spirit.”
Dossena was reiterating his thesis, which was highly eclectic, during a period in which socioeconomic and racial tensions in Paris once again manifested themselves as riots. His own personal emblem of equality in difference among the ‘characters’ he created in Paris was to adorn them with jewelled circlets and diadems “as if they’d found them on the market.” Some of them were sporting high-fashion takes on laurel wreaths, which were also spotted all around the city of Paris. “You know, when you move about, you come across a variety of neo-classical sculptures in various places. I figured, “Why not put them on girls who are walking around outside?”
Dossena’s presentation of chic-ified ensembles featured a pinstripe trouser suit and a lace dress worn over a pair of trompe l’oeil beaded trousers with sweeping trains. Other options were a tuxedo jacket with a matching trouser suit and a lace dress. At the halfway point, in a breathtaking moment that spoke forcefully to the beauty of human unity, he draped sparkling gold and silver expanses of chainmail to unite pairs of models. These models included a guy who appeared to be carrying a woman’s train, as well as two independent goddess warriors, each of whom represented a different country.
Naturally, he took inspiration from some of Gaultier’s most famous works, as doing so was required of him in this one-off role. There were allusions to the enormous trapper hat that Gaultier wore, the floor-length coats that he designed for his “Rabbi Chic” collection, and the off-the-shoulder lace that he featured in his “La Concierge est Dans l’Escalier” presentation. Dossena stated that he could strongly identify with Gaultier’s practice of scouring flea markets for antique treasures as a means of creating more complex methods. There was a garment that was made of Irish crochet lace, and it was embroidered with gold paillettes that were painstakingly crafted to seem like they were ancient. There was a peach satin lingerie dress worn over black lace, as well as a flowery lace apron worn over tailoring. Both of these pieces were stunning.
And just when you thought Dossena might have missed a tiny bit of the subversive wit that earned Gaultier forever dubbed as the Enfant Terrible of French fashion, sure enough, there it was. Dossena had nailed it. A pair of clever trompe l’oeil embroidery of pubic hair could be seen clearly through a couple of garments that were transparent. Jean Paul Gaultier, who was seated in the front row, made an eyebrow raising gesture and laughed as the models walked past.