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By Kaleigh Werner

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The smooth sounds of violins were cut as a fierce beat began to circle through the speakers. Covered head to toe in spliced patterns, a line of male models stomped down a blanketed path. The phrase “Merci Jean Paul Gaultier,” would not only be heard overhead but seen within the detailed stitching inside the brand’s 2022 fall couture collection.


Since Gaultier’s announced runway retirement in 2020, the honor of designing the French fashion house’s new couture line has been given to a hand-picked designer each season. And this year Gaultier’s choice was none other than Balmain’s long-time creative director, Olivier Rousteing. Harnessing his inspiration and what Rousteing saw as several transformative moments throughout the brand’s history, the designer crafted what could only be described as an emotional dedication to Gaultier’s work over the years.


All eyes were drawn to Rousteing’s detail as every look nodded to the nonbinary, diverse, and inclusive campaigns Gaultier had long been constructing. But the development and creation behind the doors of Gaultier’s atelier was paid tribute to as well through an incorporation of heart-shaped pin cushion bracelets, pins lined as earrings, wrap garments symbolizing measuring tape and added gloves with thimbles. White spiraling structured dresses appeared as if they were a designer’s unfinished sketches, but that was the point.


Between lines of white crepe added to jackets as if they were pinstripes, menswear fabric made to mimic the 1994 tattoo collection and transparent glass bodices which exposed the model’s breasts as Madonna once wore at the amfAR gala of 1992, it was clear Rousteing had carefully selected bits of Gaultier’s creations that meant the most to him. Draped gowns and abstract shaped tops that included pointed cupping, appeared again as an ode to the retired designer’s work with Madonna.


Light piano mixed with French pop music, a complementary contrast to each runway piece that incorporated attributes of Gaultier as well as Rousteing’s work at Balmain. His notorious platform metal boots were intertwined with the Gaultier-way of remodeling denim and using corsetry.


From the front row Kim Kardashian, her daughter North, Mouna Al Ayoub, Anna Wintour, and Jean Paul Gaultier himself, reveled in the brilliance of Rousteing’s surprise collection. After passing the beaming designer, each model stepped out onto a balcony at the end of the runway to appear in front of the crowded street below. Given the opportunity to break-free from creative restrictions that have come with working at the fashion house for 13 years, Rousteing was able to find his personality inside Gaultier’s lasting vision.

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