It's confusing to know where to start with Jean Paul Gaultier's show for S/S 2011, but for argument's sake let's start at the very beginning. The Gossip lead singer Beth Ditto opened his show - there was a vague precedent for this, his invitation featured two three-dimensional prints: a full-figured nude on one side, compressed down to a skinnier counterpart on the other. Pop on your 3-D specs, and the nudes popped off the page. Clever - a witty play on fashion's current fixation with voluptuous versus emaciated.
Exactly how either of the above related to Gaultier's collection - in any manner - is unknown. In fact, how anything related to anything else in Gaultier's collection is an absolute mystery to all present, including, one suspects, the man himself. We opened with anaglyphic prints - odd cosmic variations of stars and moons simply printed on denim. These have been done before, most recently by Marios Schwab over in London. What's more, they've been done better. It seemed the garments made a half-hearted attempt to pick up on the three-dimensional aspect of the print, popping sleeve-heads out into that tired, wire-coathanger shoulder shape, and jutting out pockets. These were tricked out in denim, before a barrage of pleats took over - engulfing everything from underwear (as outerwear, big surprise) to a classic trenchcoat (in pleated silk, it looked more like a dressing-gown). This was taken over by a brief rehash of punk styling - much beloved by Gaultier since the eighties, but never before presented so generically. Somehow, this segued into tropical foliage prints, replete with three dimensional flowers, and then finally, finally, into a bit of ruffled chantilly-lace bondage. The Divine Ms. Ditto teetered out dressed as a French maid in ruffled tulle and belted out a hit, and was then chased off the catwalk by Gaultier in a band t-shirt with a bouquet.
One hoped in, writing out the sequence of events, to discover some reason behind them. Alas, there was nothing. Abandoning logic and all pretense at a cohesive link from piece to piece, did the collection work as an array of Gaultier greatest hits, a sort of dressing-up box of his three decades of design? No. It looked messy, in a way we simply do not anticipate from a name like Gaultier. He's less established, more an establishment in himself. The truly sad aspect to this collection was that it felt like there was literally nothing anyone would want to wear. Ms. Ditto did her best to wow the crowd, but for all the power of her pitch-perfect performance there was no shaking the fact that M. Gaultier himself struck a bum note.