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Jean Paul Gaultier has embodied many things throughout his high-fashion life: fantasy, innovation, controversy and now, symbolism – of an industry whose modern day fast fashion pressures have become all too much. Announcing his retirement from the prêt-à-porter industry earlier last month, Gaultier went out in style with his SS15 show, ‘Election de Miss Jean Paul Gaultier 2015’.

Fittingly staged in Europe’s largest cinema Le Grand Rex, Gaultier rejected the norm and ignored the ordinary just as he has always done, delivering the collection as a camp beauty pageant to an eager audience of hundreds. The likes of Boy GeorgeAlber ElbazRick Owens and Jeremy Scott sat front row as Alex Taylor and Rossy de Palma commentated the show – a reworked reflection of the last four decades of his work.

Illustrating the eccentricity that he is known for, Gaultier began with Miss Hommage a Madame de Palmay (a salute to Genevieve de Fontenay), filling the stage with dancing models in tight leotards and bouffant hair styles. Miss Rédactrice du Mode paid a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Gaultier’s personal style icons and fashion editors of the past, while Miss Footballer’s Wife, Miss Smoking, and Lucha Libre all illustrated Gaultier’s endless talents within the modern realm. Coco Rocha took center stage to welcome the finale, accepting her crown as Miss Jean Paul Gaultier, surrounded by a dancing throng of Gaultier’s muses on a gold confetti glittered stage. She tweeted just after the show: “Walking the @JPGaultier ready-to-wear runway for the very last time was certainly bitter sweet. #PFW #JPG.”

As the industry’s most significantly controversial designer, the idea of his retirement is a grim thought for the fashion world and a very strong anti-commercialism message. Gaultier isn’t shy to admit the reasons behind his ready-to-wear retirement either: “the world of ready-to-wear has evolved considerably. Commercial constraints and the frenetic pace of collections do not allow for any freedom, or the necessary time to find fresh ideas or to innovate. It is still a dream and I don’t want it to become a nightmare.”

Continuing with the haute couture line that he has been working on since 1997, Gaultier will remain a fashion figurehead regardless of his ready-to-wear absence, focusing on his next collection for Mode à Paris Couture in January. He spoke with Women’s Wear Daily on his love for haute couture: “For some time now, I have found my true fulfillment in haute couture. It allows me to express my creativity and my taste for research and experimentation.”

With nearly 40 years of designing under his belt, Gaultier doesn’t see this as an end, but rather: “a new beginning, where I can express my creativity again without constraints.”

While we remember his impact on the industry, his daringness and non-practicality, his ambiguous male skirts, bare-breasted corsets and wildly entertaining shows, we should also remember his retirement motives – Gaultier speaks loud and clear of the fast fashion industry and its impacts on even the most established of designers. 

Paying homage to his highly revered work, The National Gallery of Victoria will be the only Australian venue for ‘The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’, featuring more than 140 garments alongside previously unseen photographs, sketches, stage costumes, excerpts from runway shows, film fractions and personal memoirs. The exhibition offers an insight into Gaultier’s best works, some of the most influential and some of the notorious, as well as the first dress created by the designer in 1971. Running until February 8 2015, this is also the first international exhibition of its kind – and a stunning prêt-à-porter salute to the father of fashion fantasy.

The Fashion Advocate x

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