Boy George, with his sweet smile, doffed his hat, while Catherine Deneuve wiped a tear from her eye as Jean Paul Gaultier, his face covered in lipstick kisses, ended his ready-to-wear career.
The crowd in Le Grand Rex roared with delight, cheering on Spanish actress Rossy de Palma — a long-time Gaultier muse — who, stuffed into one of the designer’s infamous Madonna-style corsets, staged a faux beauty contest.
It was ‘won’ by model-actress Coco Rocha, in another nude coloured corset. But that was not until a freaky parade of ‘mature’ models had been led onto the stage by hunky young guys, and after a line-up of “femmes de footballeurs” — footballers wives – had shown JPG clothes at their most deliberately vulgar and risqué.
Ah, the clothes! The nonchalance with which Jean Paul concluded his own ready-to-wear career made it seem so simple: all those severely tailored tuxedos, sliced away at one side as one of the JPG symbols of sexual freedom, and of women taking control of their own bodies.
Gaultier divided his collection into that perfect tailoring, which is the cornerstone of the haute couture that he will continue to show, and sportswear. The latter was a tumble of silk and stretch, decorated with a “Coco” logo, which might, with the designer’s wicked wit, have referred to Coco Chanel rather than Coco Rocha.
Another band of figures were on the stage before the show ended in a blaze of golden confetti and Jean Paul took a wild run towards the audience.
I and my fashion editor colleagues were all lampooned/honoured on the runway: Grace Coddington with her ginger locks, Carine Roitfeld with her sculpted cheekbones, the rock-chic of French Vogue editor Emmanuelle Alt, and Franca Sozzani, editor of Vogue Italia, with her mass of Botticellian blond curls. I considered it a mighty compliment from a great designer that my quiff hairstyle made it to the stage.
It is too soon to talk of Gaultier’s legacy, because he will already be showing couture next January. But he must be applauded for bringing to the stage the issues of ethnicity (he was the first designer to mix races on the catwalk), and of sexuality, with that conical bra that brought underwear to the street. There was also his invention on the catwalk of what later developed into Gay Pride, and his deep knowledge and understanding of the essence of fine tailoring and Parisian chic.
The Paris ready-to-wear shows will be paler, duller and so much less fun without him.