Jean Paul Gaultier works a theme like a last nerve. Today’s was clearly big cats…big lady cats, to be precise: lionesses, tigresses, cougars. His Couture collection was a celebration of Woman as Predator. The outfits—and the names that Gaultier gave them—had a man-eating subtext: Pussy Faster was a leopard-spotted biker jacket, Catwoman a dark maîtresse-stern concoction of animalist jacquard and Lurex lace, and Cruella de Ville starred ocelot spots in a coat of feathers artfully “camouflaged” as fur. And Black Panther, the last look before the Bride, was modeled by Nabilla Benattia, a mantrap who is tabloid bait in France for her reality TV antics. The word bustier could have been invented just for her.
Given that Gaultier’s catwalk vedettes in his glory days included Madonna and Björk, Benattia seemed a bit down-market, but the show had a sheeny brashness that she suited. There was a definite emphasis on exaggerated, almost cartoonish curves rather than elegant lines. There was exaggeration too in the peculiar pannier/pocket hybrid that helped shape the silhouette. They looked a bit like something Bowie might have worn once. Gaultier clearly had him on his mind, because he used his song titles for other outfits. Suffragette City was a plain black velvet dress underpinned by a fiery orange petticoat, stockings, and matching shoes. Stark and sensual—that did the trick. A few outfits later, a “millefeuille de mousselines” echoed Yves Saint Laurent’s way with color, as a reminder that Gaultier was once considered the one true heir to the throne of French fashion. But that was once upon a time, and that time has, sad to say, well and truly passed.