When Jean Paul Gaultier took a step back from his namesake brand in 2020, he opened up the couture house’s doors to young designers handpicked by himself. The project kicked off with Chitose Abe, followed by Glenn Martens, Olivier Roustein, and most recently, Haider Ackermann. These designers reinterpreted Gaultier’s DNA with their own signature, creating critically acclaimed collections. This season, it was the turn of French designer Julien Dossena — Rabanne’s creative director — to bring his vision into the celebrated fashion house.
Full Circle Moment
When he was invited to guest design Gaultier’s haute couture collection, Dossena felt like he was experiencing a full-circle moment. The designer recalls discovering Jean Paul Gaultier’s creations as a child, watching his runway shows on a TV screen. As he observed in admiration, he was hit with the realization that fashion designing was an actual job. As an adult, Dossena worked his way up and ultimately became the creative director of Rabanne, a title he has held for almost a decade. However, his recent stint at Gaultier marked the designer’s haute couture debut.
A Glimpse into the Collection
Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fall Winter 2023 haute couture show took place at the brand’s headquarters in Paris. With seats arranged closely, the setting allowed guests to fully immersed themselves in the presentation. It was one of the many ways Julien Dossena chose to pay tribute to Jean Paul Gaultier, who had a penchant for staging this type of intimate show.
Dossena’s tribute to Gaultier’s whimsical wonders didn’t stop at the location. His haute couture first showing was filled with the brand’s best qualities — sensuality, boldness, drama, and a touch of camp.
Although honoring a designer can come with the risk of blurring the lines between appreciation and imitation, Dossena intertwined his progressive sensibilities into the collection. In a way, the designer offered a revamped version of classic Gaultier looks to appeal to younger generations of fashion lovers. The collection was also laced with Rabanne’s house codes, including the use of metals and tilings — Gaultier himself was inspired by Paco Rabanne. In fact, Jean Paul Gaultier encouraged Dossena to put his metal know-how into use for this collection.
A Love Letter to Gaultier
Throughout the show, it was evident that Dossena did his research. He referenced archives and elements from Jean Paul Gaultier’s lengthy career, from beginning to end. Kicking off the show, a model walked out in a pinstripe suit — a signature of the brand — with the curved textures of a cone bra seeping through its panels. Cone bras, an iconic Gaultier staple, made a comeback in this collection with Dossena embedding them in several looks. The designer also found inspiration from the darker and edgier side of Gaultier’s portfolio, opting for a palette of black, maroon, and dark colors, as well as elements like lace, corsetry, animal print, and plaid.
Still retro gazing, the designer made direct references to looks that Gaultier previously sent down the runway. One of them was an off-the-shoulder dress with leopard print created with beads. The outfit nodded to a legendary runway look from the Fall 1997 collection that used the same beading technique. Gaultier’s dragon imagery, which made a debut on the Spring 1997 runway, made an appearance on a sleek cone bra corset dress. Another reference from the ’90s came in the form of a velvet gown with roses spread across the neckline — a reinterpretation of a suit ensemble presented in the Spring 1997 collection, as well as one of the costumes Gaultier designed for The Fifth Element.
Another iconic Gaultier throwback was a bustier top made of neckties, first released on the Spring 2002 runway and brought back for Jean Paul Gaultier’s farewell show in 2020. Other references included the faux fur hats reminiscent of the Fall 2019 season, and the classic Gaultier sailor stripes. A true highlight of the show was the reiteration of a topless look from 1997. In this new version of the ensemble, Dossena added an opulent top made of interlinked jewels — a technique that reminds of Rabanne’s metal tiling — to decorate the model’s torso.
With an immaculate presentation, Dossena made his stint at Jean Paul Gaultier’s haute couture one to remember. Rabanne’s creative director resurrected and reintroduced the most classic codes from Gaultier, ensuring his legacy is still remembered by new generations. And in his success in doing so, he also managed to honor the man that first awakened his fashion dreams.
Interested in more Paris Couture Week coverage? Check out Schiaparelli’s show here.