Chitose Abe will design Jean-Paul Gaultier’s next couture collection
The sacai founder’s outing for the house will be its first since the retirement of its eponymous founder.
Jean-Paul Gaultier’s couture grand finale for SS20 was one of the veritable heights of the season: an eccentric-yet-elegant swan-song for a true contemporary visionary of fashion’s finest métier. But as the confetti settled on the celebration of l’enfant térrible’s 50-year contribution of anarchic glamour and incomparable wit, the only question that begged asking was: ‘Well, what comes next?’
With fifty years of history behind it, the house that Jean-Paul built occupies a curious territory. Though not quite old enough to succumb to that particular French habit of abiding by tradition for its own sake, the DNA it developed over the past half-decade is almost sacred, to a degree that die-hard fans could easily take issue with its tampering.
Today, as Paris Fashion Week draws to a close, the question mark hovering above the fate of the city’s most rebellious maison has been lifted. Chitose Abe of sacai will be the first in a series of guest designers to create Jean-Paul Gaultier’s next couture collection.
The model adopted by the house is one that we’ve seen a fair bit of recently -- think Helmut Lang by Shayne Oliver, or Moncler’s critically and commercially applauded ‘Genius’ series. And Chitose Abe’s arguably a perfect choice for such an approach, given her long history of collaborating with brands like The North Face, Birkenstock, and Nike, a relationship that’s been running since 2014. This will, however, be the first time we see the sacai founder apply her hybridising touch in a couture studio.
“I have a long-held admiration for Jean Paul’s unique vision of subversive femininity and his originality, both of which I’ve strived towards in my work since the beginning,” she told WWD. “It’s a true honour to be given the opportunity to be custodian of his house as the first designer of this project.”
Indeed, there’s much that the two designers share, particularly a mutual interest in disrupting preconceived notions of how women should dress. But it’s perhaps in their differences that the most exciting potential for the union lies. Where Gaultier has typically favoured towards nuanced, at-times-quirky theatricality in his work, Chitose has often put a decidedly cerebral foot forward in hers. Both, though, are committed to reappraising and expanding the horizons of what their woman can be. With this and the return of Balenciaga to the schedule, the haute couture shows of AW20 can’t come sooner.