Punk spirit lives on in Paris, with Jean Paul Gaultier’s Joan Jett-inspired collection

By Jenny Barchfield, AP
Saturday, October 2, 2010

Punk spirit lives on in Paris, with Gaultier show

PARIS — Punk isn’t dead. It’s alive, and if not well, at least kicking in Paris, where — after hardcore-steeped shows earlier in the week at Balmain and Balenciaga — Jean Paul Gaultier sent out Saturday kinder, gentler Joan Jetts in spiky wigs and rose-emblazoned jean jackets.

The spring-summer 2011 ready-to-wear collection, which was percolating with a few too many ideas for its own good, was not one of Gaultier’s stronger of late, but with “Gossip” frontwoman Beth Ditto as opening act, it still exploded with energy.

Viktor & Rolf were also on-trend with a collection centered on that perennial cool-girl staple — the boyfriend’s oversized button-down shirt — and towering merengue-like shoulders big enough to make any eighties prom queen blush.

Bunuel’s classic film about the perversion of France’s moneyed elite, “The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie,” was in the air at Azzaro, a Paris house that has made classy clothing with an undercurrent of perversion its trademark. This season, designer Vanessa Seward served up sweet little-girl frocks with oversized ruffles at the neck and hemlines. Worn on grown women, though, the abbreviated dresses lost a lot of their sweet innocence.

It was a wardrobe for big girls with a bad streak.

Sonia Rykiel flaunted an overall Paris tendency toward neutrals and whites with a rainbow-hued collection of color-blocked sweaterdresses. A convincing, if not groundbreaking, collection from the label that earned the title of “Queen of Knitwear” more than four decades ago.

After the shows, the fashion elite flocked en masse to a party in honor of Chanel uber-designer Karl Lagerfeld’s collaboration with sporty Italian shoemaker Hogan. Kaiser Karl was in attendance, as were anyone who’s anyone in the fashion world. The ponytailed designer regaled the well-heeled crown with a short black-and-white film about love and trust among models decked out in, you guessed it, Hogan.

Paris’ nine-day-long ready-to-wear marathon moves into its sixth day on Sunday with shows by edgy Givenchy, John Galliano and the purveyor of the new minimalism, Celine.


The show had all the ingredients of a blockbuster: “Gossip”’s Ditto’s thunderous a cappella performance, models in Joan Jett spiky wigs, and hardcore gear that was on-trend with the punk collections shown earlier this week at red-hot Paris labels Balmain and Balenciaga.

But, like a wet firecracker, the show started with a bang and quickly petered out.

The peak-shouldered jean jackets and cropped skintight jeans were convincing, but what were those tropical palm prints doing there? They looked like leftovers from Gaultier’s stellar Mexican-themed show a couple of seasons ago.

And the flower prints? You could see where Gaultier was going with the idea, but punk and sweet pink roses just don’t mix.

The problem seemed to lie in the fertility of Gaultier’s imagination: There were just too many ideas on the catwalk, and the collection got lost somewhere in that prodigious creativity.

The invitations announced the show would explore the contrast between “XXL” and “XXS,” but besides Ditto and another big girl, the rest of the models were the usual cast of waifs who dominate the catwalks worldwide.

That seemed a shame, because Gaultier has often cast amazing looking nonprofessionals in his shows and he could surely have found plenty of curvaceous beauties for the job. Plus, a serious debate on the industry’s obsession with skeletal girls is long overdue.


The pair morphed the oversized boyfriend’s button-down shirt into little cocktail dresses, paired them with shorts and cropped pants and stretched them to the size of a pup tent. One shirt, cropped to the model’s midriff in the front, reached ankle length in the back, where it billowed like a superhero’s cape.

The button-down also featured prominently on other Paris catwalks earlier this week, including Dries Van Noten and Maison Martin Margiela, where it was worn oversized as a dress or tied around the waist as a skirt.

Viktor & Rolf also continued their experiments with volume, which last season saw them pile all the looks in the collection onto a single model, Russian stacking doll style. The volume this season was concentrated in the shoulders, towering merengue-like constructions that would have been hard-pressed to make it through a standard sized door.

The series of short white cocktail dresses in bridal-gown satin and lace that closed the show had several maxi-puff sleeves stacked on top of on another to create volumes that would make even a Texas prom queen circa 1985 feel grossly inadequate.


Knitwear’s reigning queen consolidated her ironclad grasp on upbeat, high-end knits, with a rainbow of color-blocked sweater dresses and jumpsuits that were flirty and fun with a naughty edge.

Clingy ribbed tank dresses were knit with trompe l’oeil bustiers or bras for an innerwear-as-outerwear effect. Knit overalls were cut wide through the legs, with nothing but strategically placed straps covering the torso.

There was a slightly 1980s feel about the collection. Perhaps it was the shirt dresses with extra-wide sleeves and obi belts — which made the girls look like Christie Brinkley decked out for a visit to Tokyo — or perhaps it was just the girls’ frizzy oversized hairdos.

Whites and neutrals have dominated the Paris ready-to-wear shows, but Rykiel — one of the last independently owned Paris labels — bucked that trend, sending out saturated salmon, chartreuse, yellow and other jewel tones.

This happy, easy collection ended, as Rykiel shows tend to, with a model mob hamming it up on the runway, holding hands and blowing kisses to the photographers.

will not be displayed