Jean Paul Gaultier has developed creative and precise standout pieces since the brand was established in 1982. While Gaultier stepped down in 2020, the house’s origins in unconventionality and eccentricity have persisted to make Gaultier a fashion powerhouse. Guest couturier Glenn Martens honours Gaultier’s long heritage by expanding on this tradition with his haute couture ensembles in the Spring/Summer 2022 Haute Couture show. The collection was exclusively focused on eveningwear and was presented in the runway room of Gaultier’s building on rue Saint Martin, which had been veiled in transparent black curtains.
While most of us have been abstaining from alcohol and channelling the whole ‘new year, new me’ in the gym, Glenn has had an extremely busy 2022. He’s already been among the architects of Julia Fox‘s very public makeover, exhibited a killer Y/Project ready-to-wear collection, and has now made his haute couture debut as the second-ever designer to take on the mantle of Jean Paul Gaultier.
Jean Paul Gaultier’s new set-up makes complete sense in the age of the luxury ‘hack’. Following last season’s haute couture collaboration with Sacai‘s Chitose Abe, Martens was given the task of interpreting JPG’s legacy. The Y/Project and Diesel designer was given unrestricted access to the master’s archives and ateliers. He revealed the collection to Gaultier at the same time he revealed it to the world. In that sense, the couturier’s seasonal takeover concept is a one-time, season-based artistic director role, rather than a collaborative endeavour.
This is part of the French house’s pop-up designer concept, in which designers are welcomed in to utilise the archive’s many genres and extensive ateliers to create whatever sort of collection they desire for one season only. Who could say no to that as a designer? The opportunity to be a temporary creative director without the hassle of meetings and admin – what designer would say no to that? Glenn took the opportunity to learn from the talented seamstresses and couture specialists, along with borrowing from the archives for his own label.
He had one season to make his mark, so he went for it. ‘It’s not really about reinventing the whole house or trying to bring in a new world — it’s really more of a celebration,’ he said during a preview. ‘Gaultier was one of the greatest inventors in fashion history, and I took the things that touched me and tried to reinvent them in a Y/Project way.’ The union made for a darker, grittier, and somewhat more ragged take on the couturier’s distinctive themes, motifs, and techniques. All of our favourite Gaultierisms were present: plunging Y-shaped stomachers and hooped crinolines in corsetry; the marinière hand-embellished with lots of coral spikes; and surreal Op Art designs, made even more out there by layers of overlaying chiffon.
If he favoured vulgarity in the past, Martens chose eroticism as his disruptor for couture. Of course, Jean Paul Gaultier was no stranger to sexuality — but, given the often prim-and-proper element to couture, here was a reminder of the importance of an enfant terrible amid the opulent Louis XV halls of coutureland.
Control, technical wizardry and the highest form of construction are at the heart of haute couture. Martens, on the other hand, has a reputation for transforming Medieval luxury into clothing that often appears to be falling apart. He did, however, make it work for couture. Offcuts of fabric were repurposed into tendrilled gowns, while organza scrims were occasionally wrapped around the head of the model. Creating couture dresses from the scraps of the cutting room floor? That’s very Glenn.
The show this week wasn’t actually Martens’ first foray into the JPG gene pool. During the Paris men’s shows, he debuted a Y/Project collection that included a ready-to-wear collaboration – or should we say “hack”? – with Gaultier, which borrowed numerous designs and themes from his archives. Gaultier and Martens have struck a winning combination in the hyper-collaborative (and profitable) age of designer and brand alliances. It doesn’t matter if it’s only for a season. The Gaultier runway will showcase a new one-off artistic directorship for the couture presentations in July. And if this is anything to go by, we look forward to it.