When, in January, Jean Paul Gaultier announced he was going to be bowing out of fashion after 50 years in the industry, he simultaneously signalled he would keep one well-heeled foot in the door. In a jokey video on Instagram, he said: “Gaultier Paris will continue, haute couture will continue. I have a new concept; I’ll tell you about it later, I’ll tell you all the little secrets. But it is going to continue.”
That new concept has now been revealed. The French designer, who is often called the “enfant terrible” of fashion and is perhaps best-known for designing Madonna’s conical bra, took to Instagram yesterday to announce: “Each season, I will invite a designer to interpret the codes of the House and I am doubly pleased that Chitose Abe of @sacaiofficial will be the first one!”
Gaultier’s final swan-song show will be a tough act to follow. It saw contortionists, drag queens, Boy George and Dita Von Teese all take to the stage of Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet.
But Gaultier said of Abe in a statement: “I admire her work, we have many things in common creatively and a similar vision of fashion. I am glad to give her the complete freedom.”
Abe added: “I have a long-held admiration for Jean Paul’s unique vision of subversive femininity and his originality, both of which I’ve strived towards in my work since the beginning. It’s a true honour to be given the opportunity to be custodian of his house as the first designer of this project.”
Abe founded her Japan-based brand Sacai in 1999 and is a favourite among those who like their fashion conceptual, which speaks to her earlier career: Abe spent eight years working at Comme des Garçons as a patternmaker. Sacai has been showing at Paris fashion week since 2009.
Abe is often hailed as being a pioneer of hybridisation in fashion, whether via silhouettes or fabrics. For AW20 she sent suit jackets that doubled as long coat-skirts and dresses that morphed into trousers down the catwalk.
Although Abe has done several collaborations in the past, for example with Nike and Birkenstock, this will be the first time the Japanese ready-to-wear designer will turn her hand to couture.
The model of having guest designers is one now familiar to the industry. For instance the Moncler Genius series, which was first debuted at Milan fashion week in 2018, instead of having one creative director at the helm of the skiwear brand invites multiple creative directors to work for the brand on a rolling basis.
The collection will debut in July for autumn 2020 as part of a couture fashion week that the industry is hoping will be one of the most exciting in years, with Balenciaga also recently announcing it will debut a couture offering, the house’s first in 52 years, in Paris.
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