Jean Paul Gaultier bows out with final, spectacular runway show
Jean Paul Gaultier knew the world was watching, so he packed the final runway show of his 50-year career with the star power befitting the king of a half-century of fashion.
Celebrities took their seats at Paris' Théâtre du Châtelet for a spectacular show with surprise appearances -- Paris Jackson made her runway debut -- and a performance by Boy George.
Gaultier has built a career on the unexpected, earning the moniker "enfant terrible" for his dissection and reinvention of classic designs, including corsets and sailors' stripes, which he elevated to haute couture.
So when he announced Friday that Wednesday's Paris show would be his last, there was little doubt that Gaultier would leave his mark.
"It's going to be quite a party," he promised in a short video on Twitter.
And it was. An orchestra played with an enormous cast, capped off by Boy George belting the Culture Club's "Church of the Poison Mind."
On the runway, Irina Shayk, Jourdan Dunn and Bella Hadid walked alongside Khelfa, Karen Elson and Estelle Lefebure, models who rose to fame in the 80s and 90s.
"I feel so much love today with all those old models that came and wanted to make my show," Gaultier told reporters backstage. They were joined by a diverse cast that included American singer Beth Ditto and bearded Austrian drag queen Conchita.
Throughout the show, Gaultier referenced past works. The iconic cone bra and corset the French designer famously created for Madonna's Blonde Ambition Tour was reworked with buckles for muse Dita Von Teese, and even built into a black coffin guarded by black-suited models on stage.
The coffin was opened to revealed model Issa Lish, who walked down the runway wearing a frilled, puff-sleeved minidress.
"Couture is not dead!" Gaultier later said, perhaps to make clear that his departure from runways does not mark the end of high fashion.
A master of mixing old and new, Gaultier also reprised his sailor motif, dressing model Karlie Kloss in a sheer white bodysuit, topped with a white "dixie cup" hat. Gigi Hadid also sported the headgear, along with a pleated striped top.
Gaultier's farewell show gave the French designer an opportunity to revisit his past -- but to also spread a message of the importance of reusing and recycling.
As a young designer, he would search flea markets for worn pieces that he could revive, adding simple touches like beautiful fabric lining. Of the more than 200 outfits he sent down the runway Wednesday, only 50 or so were "completely new," he said. "The rest was a mix of ready-to-wear, things (such as the embroidery on old bags) that I bought in China..."
Gaultier has spoken before about the fashion industry's waste problem, including the practice of some luxury brands to burn unsold stock. "Instead of burn(ing) them, you can make something else," he said.
The French designer's passion with reinvention has earned him admiration on and off the runway.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell paid tribute to the designer on Twitter: "So many years of incredible memories !! Every moment has been an absolute honor and pleasure."
Fifty years is a long time for one name to dominate fashion circles. But Gaultier recently told CNN that he had moved beyond his "enfant terrible" stage to become "more calm and quiet."
Some might disagree. Gaultier may have retired from the runway, but the 67-year-old designer is still captivating audiences with his "Fashion Freak Show," a musical revue that premiered in 2018 and is soon to move onto the latest stop on its world tour -- Russia.
The stage show encompasses everything the fashion world loves about Gaultier: his refusal to embrace conformity and his desire for something new.
After his final runway show on Wednesday he told media backstage, "It was a pleasure for me to make a party of it.
"Not exactly what was supposed to happen, happened. But it doesn't matter, it's part of life. In life, you have to be a chameleon."