Just when everyone thought that Jean Paul Gaultier had settled into a calmer maturity and the role of elder statesmen of radical French design, he reminds us of exactly why he gained the reputation of French fashion’s enfant terrible all those years ago.
His ‘Jane Bond’ AW12 menswear collection shown during Paris Men’s Fashion Week was brimming with all the saucy tricks and transgender frolics that raised so many eyebrows when he first burst onto the international fashion scene. Taking its inspiration from the James Bond mythology, Gaultier, with usual aplomb, saw no reason that his menswear collection should not be as much inspired by the sexy female characters of the Bond movies as by James’ style.
So, whilst the shaken and never stirred signature tuxedo of the fictional secret agent was very much in evidence, so were the looks synonymous with the Bond films’ legendary sirens….on the men. This varied from the mildly kinky results of fusing Ursula Andress’ famous scuba look from ‘Dr No’ with men’s shorts to flagrantly tranny antics in swirling furs and gold.
The sexy silhouette of scuba gear – a regular occurrence in James Bond’s many cinematic outings- was one of the key ideas in the collection. Explored as tight shorts with thigh straps matched with tuxedos (and fishnet stockings!) it was also the source of inspiration for trousers taking their form from a half-undone wetsuit.
Gold and metallic fabrics evocative of ‘Moonraker’ space travel were also very much in force, the shapes of jackets fusing traditional forms such as the double-breasted pea coat with a high-tech futurist feel. Similar territory was explored in fitted leather combinations suggesting exactly what might be needed for a high-speed ski chase, a spot of nail-biting mountaineering or a dangerous covert night mission. Boxy, padded and quilted, the feeling of many of the garments was one of specialist sports or activity wear reinterpreted as luxury fashion, suggesting an action man who might need to be ready for any eventuality.
Inevitably the tuxedo remained the central point of reference that pulled the collection together. One of the main motifs associated with the sexy spy, in Gaultier’s collection it reappeared in many forms and variations: a fairly traditional suave version of the classic; atop tight shorts and with bold flesh-revealing slashes to the back of the jacket.
As has often been the case with Jean Paul Gaultier, the wonderful theatricality of the presentation is not a smokescreen that hides sloppy or, indeed, unwearable fashion. Examined away from the bright lights and high drama of the défilé, the collection includes many beautifully made clothes that are more than suited to men whose lifestyles are just a little more sedate than that of James Bond or an androgyne model going down the catwalk in quasi-drag.