Big cats and larger-than-life superwomen
The clues were in the show notes: Pussy Faster, Lady Killer, Catwoman, Mata Hari, Cruella de Ville, and so on - Gaultier likes to give every outfit a name. Heavy hints were also in the audience’s seating, divided into sections titled ‘Lions’, ‘Panthers’, Tigers’, and other big cats. Then came the opening music: the theme tune to the Pink Panther.
Gaultier’s vampy extravaganza was a bold-as-brass tribute to larger-than-life heroines and superwomen. And big cats. Yes, animal prints were everywhere – on ‘Catwoman’ (played by Lindsey Wixsom, the one with the super-pout) in the form of panther spotted jacquard dress, and on ‘Cruella de Ville’ (Joan Smalls) who wore a giant cocoon coat rendered in feathers that were made to look like leopard spots.
You get the feeling, watching a Gaultier show, that the designer gets as much of a buzz casting his girls and dreaming up who they will ‘play’ as he does from creating the actual clothes. As ever, this was no mere show, but unapologetic theatre. Despite all the high camp theatrics, it was the clothes that held the stage – well, most of them. Not the pumped rows of quilting that came out of nowhere and looked heavy. And not the trousers whose pockets jutted out at severe angles. But, still, nobody cuts a ‘smoking’ quite like Gaultier - the fit of those tuxedo jackets and the long, long legs of those trousers, stitched this season with diamante seams, are still his go-to signature. Most of all, it’s the sheer rampaging joy he still has for it all after 30 years. Sadly, even the sight of him running down the catwalk wearing a silly sailor hat and madly waving his hands, sometimes isn’t enough to raise a smile from the po-faced fashion audience.