Dispatches from Paris: Jean Paul Gaultier & Haider Ackermann

A Space Odyssey & Tall Tales

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By: Rebecca Lowthorpe Follow @Rebecca_ELLE

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Space punks and grannies at JPG

‘Welcome on board,’ said the hostess wearing a white space suit as we entered Jean Paul Gaultier’s space shuttle. Actually, we were in Espace Oscar Niemeyer, the strange dome-shaped French Communist Party headquarters that strongly resembles an alien spacecraft. An apt setting, for this was Gaultier’s ‘British Galaxy Airways’ – said the invitation that featured an astronaut waving a Union Jack flag. Why a British space ship? Because Gaultier makes no secret of his passion for all things British – a regular pillager of British street-style – and because he will be feted this year with a major exhibition of his 35 years in fashion at the Barbican in London. Cue flight-attendant voiceover asking us to ‘please tighten your belts – very, very tight’ before a 10-second countdown and then, lift off! The odyssey that followed has to be one of the most camp, farcical and fun fashion spectacles that the enfant terrible has ever mounted.

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What say you to a pearl grey space jumpsuit in grey mink? Hell, make it silver with padded shoulders and a tubular hood! The space punks were the best – especially the grannies and kids – wearing mohicans, zippered tartans and studded leathers. Or maybe the parade of queens wearing crowns and smothered with Union Jacks in sequins or plastic. Aside from the sheer lunacy of it all, such as the flight attendants in lurid electric blue uniforms, there was some great music – a medley of Gaultier’s favourite British 1980s pop – and even some lovely retail-appropriate pieces too: all those long, fine skirts printed in tartan checks or English roses that also came with the punk touch of spiral zips, or the sleek black velvet suit worn by Lindsey Wixson, or Jade Parfitt’s union jack skirt. But nothing quite beat the sight of Gaultier himself running down the runway in a silver jumpsuit. As silly as it all was, Gaultier flies in the face of Paris’s serious fashion and there’s still something pleasingly anti-establishment about that. He also proved that his joie de vivre is infectious to any age – note the grandmas who all looked brilliant modelling his clothes.

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Left to right: Haider Ackermann, Lindsey Wixson at Jean Paul Gaultier, Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann is probably Gaultier’s polar opposite. No 1980s pop for him, just pounding drums and the ominous feeling that the world is about to end. As for grandmas modelling in his show, forget it. Ackermann’s models are all young, lithe and tall – very, very tall.

The fact is, if you want to wear Ackermann you need to be statuesque enough to wear his coats, dresses and trousers that sweep the floor. This season, however, the designer made a concerted effort to appeal to women who don’t top 6ft in a pair of his snakeskin boots. He included skinny trousers in velvet and python, and jackets that were neat and tailored to the hip or voluminous bomber styles that came lined in fur. Everything, even his great slouchy silhouettes, looked more effortless because of a general stripping back of layers that gave the collection an overall ease. Ackermann steered clear of the opulent silks and rich jacquards – the type of ultra precious tailoring that his most passionate advocate, Tilda Swinton, has so often been photographed wearing – and stuck to matt fabrics in shades of grey, army green, rich autumnal brown and black. To ram home his new-found casual attitude, he also included jersey – for faded grey zip -through jackets and sweatpants. It was as elegant, romantic and gender-blending as ever, but also a bold step in a more relaxed direction.

See the full Jean Pauk Gaultier collection

See the full Haider Ackermann collection

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