Jean Paul Gaultier’s final show at Paris fashion week was everything fun about ’80s and ’90s fashion—campy and arty all at once with Boy George hanging around in the background.
The hour-long show featured the usual suspect supermodels, Hadids and whathaveyou, alongside drag queens like Miss Fame, contortionists, dildo hats, and giant boobs.
Held in Paris’s Théâtre du Chatelet, the showed opened with the funeral scene from William Klein’s 1966 fashion film Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? before a curtain opened on a group of supermodel/socialite mourners posing on a white staircase presumably ascending to fashion heaven. An oversized coffin featured two giant, canonical breasts in reference to the “cone bra” he and Madonna used to piss off the heartland in 1990.
Boy George covered Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” as Gaultier’s ’90s muses including Karen Elson modeled his final collection with up-and-comers like Winnie Harlow.
What I remember most about Gaultier is how completely apoplectic that cone bra made the men in my small town when Madonna wore it in 199o. “I don’t get it,” grown men with no interest in fashion would whine, furious about a piece of pop culture that wasn’t intended for and didn’t include them. Weaponized underwear and men in skirts genuinely terrified people who were used to the universe, even the fashion world, tailoring itself to their ideas of normalcy.
Gaultier’s best work always challenged as much as it delighted, but as the world grew into spaces he helped create, Gaultier was forced out. In 2015, he announced he would shutter his ready-to-wear line and focus on twice-yearly runways shows. His final show served as both swan song and retrospective:
“I have opened all my drawers, taken back all my old collections,” Gaultier wrote in a farewell letter. “I have used my archives as material. Goodbye, the brand-new; hello, the brand old. What I did at the beginning with no resources, I do today with my inheritance to give life to new creations.”
And with his look back on four decades of perverse, beautiful, and sometimes oddly hilarious fashion, Gaultier created a spectacle that made even Anna Wintour break character and cheer, which was the curtain call he deserved.