The wider industry is reflecting on Jean Paul Gaultier’s announcement that this Saturday’s show would be his last ready-to-wear collection. Gaultier’s plan to concentrate on couture, fragrance and special collaborations, such as costumes and interiors, has been met with sadness but also a new found acknowledgement – it may not be sustainable for a designer to produce six collections in one year.
Before the announcement, fashion critics had admitted that Gaultier’s ready-to-wear collections were becoming increasingly irrelevant, relying on old ideas and sensationalism. There has also been concern that the Spanish conglomerate Puig, who has a majority share in Jean Paul Gaulier, were skimming on their support.
Puig has made it through tough time before, with other brands such as Nina Ricci and Paco Rabanne holding their label up with perfume before moving to ready-to-wear. According to the New York Times, the head of the Puig fashion division, Ralph Toledano, said that the decision is purely Gaultier’s. And, in a letter to Women’s Wear Dail (WWD) Gaulier wrote: “Commercial constraints, as well as the frenetic pace of collections, don’t leave any freedom, nor the necessary time to find fresh ideas and to innovate.”
Jean Paul Gaultier started in 1982, when fashion had not quite formed an industry. By 2003 he was creating all his lines on top of being the artistic director of Hermès womenswear. Inevitably, the nicknamed ‘enfant terrible’ bit off more than he could chew and in an industry constantly crying out for more, can we blame him? For fashion commentators such as Vanessa Freidman, Gaultier is bringing attention to the issue of fast an demanding fashion. The fact that this has been done conscientiously heightens the importance as this is not a simple burn out but a calmly determined resolution.
Now we are woken up to the genius of Gaultier once more. Bowing out of ready-to-wear, Gaultier has done the unexpected, as always, and we wait with anticipation to see where his re-evaluated commitments will take him.