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Jean Paul Gaultier Les Marins sailor collection 2021
Courtesy of Jean Paul Gaultier

The rising designers resurrecting Jean Paul Gaultier RTW tell all

Ottolinger, Alan Crocetti, and more talk going wild in JPG’s archives and putting their own spin on his iconic sailors

Chances are you may have spotted a disconcerting post pop up on Jean Paul Gaultier’s Instagram this week. Announcing ‘The End’ with no further details given, social media went into meltdown as fashion fans tried to decipher exactly what it meant. Cut to Gaultier himself, iPhone in hand, grinning mischievously at the chaos that ensued (probably) – a little laugh for the enfant-terrible of French fashion, who still loves to keep us on our toes after 50 years in the game. 

Needless to say, this ‘end’ Gaultier’s IG post spoke of is actually a new beginning – and an exciting return to ready-to-wear. With JPG taking a step back from sketching and sewing duties in early 2020, five rising designers were invited into the fold, let loose in the house’s archives, and encouraged to come up with their own take on its iconic Les Marins (or sailors, if your French isn’t up to scratch). With Palomo Spain, Nicola Lecourt Mansion, Marvin M’Toumo, Ottolinger, and Alan Crocetti on the line-up, each creative came up with pieces that married Gaultier’s DNA with their own.

For Cosima Gadient and Christa Bösch of Ottolinger, this meant twisting the designer’s signature stripes on their head through criss-cross strapped tops and full-length skirts, while Alejandro Gómez Palomo went for cheeky peek-a-boo denim and panels that offer up a flash of bum. Elsewhere, Alan Crocetti got busy transforming Gaultier’s legendary cone bra into esoteric but inviting jewellery, and Marvin M’Toumo went all-out aquatic fantasy with a look he describes as “Walt Disney’s Ariel, meets a Creole courtesan, meets a Caribbean pirate – half sexy sailor, half seductive Venus”. Don’t be getting too comfortable with this bunch, though, as each season will see a new roster of designers take the reins to offer a fresh take on the label’s back catalogue. 

Alongside this collaborative offering are a series of pieces by JPG’s studio team, including new takes on the house’s signature striped top, coquettish sailor hats, and enough mesh to keep each and every one of the Kardashian-Jenner’s happy, as well as a series of one-off vintage pieces straight from the vaults. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be Gaultier without an incredibly campy, kitschy campaign to give the collection its debut. Step – or rather swim – forward Bella Hadid, who embodies the role of a JPG-dripping siren in a new short film. First spotted under the waves seducing submerged sailors she spots between the seaweed, the model eventually makes it back onto dry land where she’s seen, rod in hand, dredging fishes up from the ocean depths. The whole thing was shot by Charlotte Wales, and reimagines some of Gaultier’s most iconic Les Marins-starring ads. 

As the film gets its grand reveal below, we speak to the rising designers about going wild in Gaultier’s archive, what the house means to them, and the ideas behind their looks.

NICOLA LECOURT MANSION 

“What makes me love Jean Paul Gaultier is that he’s so much more than a designer. He’s a complete artist, working across so many mediums – from fashion to films with Luc Besson and Almodóvar, music with Madonna and Depeche Mode. He’s taken fashion as a concept and made it art so many times, and I think my approach is very similar. I think of fashion and a language that applies to universal aspects, which allows me to do so much more.

It was amazing to go through the Gaultier archives (for this project). I knew them pretty well already, but I was so happy to discover more and even touch and use pieces for research fittings. When the theme Les Marins came up, though, I knew I wanted to reference Jean Paul’s wavy marinière that Kim Kardashian made famous again recently, and make a ‘second skin’ that could be both day and eveningwear – something that was super fierce for nighttime with wool trousers, or by day with denim jeans. The crystals following the shape of the body were a way for me to scream Jean Paul Gaultier without having to say or write anything. 

My very first job after fashion school was assisting (stylist and GQ fashion director) Azza Yousif on a Gaultier campaign, and I am so humbled to collaborate with his house and team. Designing and putting my name together with Jean Paul Gaultier’s feels iconic. Uplifting young designers and their messages through projects like this is an amazing way of influencing the future of fashion.”

MARVIN M’TOUMO 

“My first vivid image of Jean Paul Gaultier was the runway show with Beth Ditto. I remember being really struck by his choices concerning the models: Beth, Tanel Bedrossiantz, Laëticia Casta, Milla Jovovich, Rossy de Palma, Naomi Campbell, Florence Foresti, Nabilla Benattia, and many more who were less famous. In a nutshell, it conveyed the idea that everybody was beautiful wearing Jean Paul Gaultier, and we could all be celebrated for our unique beauty – a beautiful statement for the shy and self-conscious teenager I was back then. 

For Gaultier, fashion is caring, kind, positive, an everlasting party. Everyone should feel included and involved in his work – he designed fashion beyond norms and codes. To this day, his values and legacy underpin the work of many young designers, including myself – to my mind, he was the trailblazer of many debates regarding inclusivity and the social role of fashion that are still burning issues right now. 

“For Gaultier, fashion is caring, kind, positive, an everlasting party. Everyone should feel included and involved in his work – he designed fashion beyond norms and codes. To this day, his values and legacy underpin the work of many young designers, including myself” – Marvin M’Toumo

During the design process I talked a lot to my friends, my sisters, my female collaborators – I listened carefully to their need for fun, extravagance, sensuality, but also their need for comfort. I love being around women when I am designing my clothes, imagining not just muses like Yseult, Mykki Blanco, or Lana Del Rey wearing them, but also many other fierce, bold, charismatic, unknown women. Women that are never afraid to take up space and assert themselves. 

When I drew my sailor look, I was telling myself the story it was about. Once upon a time, there was a sailor. Neither tuna nor siren, one can rather imagine a juicy oyster. The sailor wears a feminine corset, made of white débossé leather with navy blue polish. These fake leather breasts and their conical seashell nipples, the pearl seashell earring, and the dorado hairclip adorn her body place her somewhere between Walt Disney’s Ariel, a Creole courtesan, and a Caribbean pirate – half sexy sailor, half seductive Venus.”

ALAN CROCETTI

“I remember seeing glimpses of Gaultier’s shows in magazines and on TV as a kid and being fascinated. It was extremely empowering to see underground and queer culture in the spotlight, even though I still had no idea what that entailed at that point. Apart from beauty and a delightful touch of sarcasm, Gaultier’s work has always represented a big sense of freedom to me. He’s an incredible designer that not only made me feel like I wasn’t alone, but also that I was celebrated. His approach to inclusivity has always spoken volumes to me. 

My favourite piece of his? It’s a tough one, but I would say the cone bra. For me, it has such a strong message of constraint transformed into liberation, as women reclaim their bodies and take charge of their sensuality. I knew I had to translate it into jewellery for my collection, which I’d describe as Querelle meets Scorpio Rising in a JPG world, with a touch of Alan. I’m still in awe at having been invited into such an iconic fashion house. To be granted full access to the archive of pieces that once made you dream is hard to explain.”

COSIMA GADIENT AND CHRISTA BÖSCH, OTTOLINGER 

“The first time we came across Jean Paul Gaultier’s work was in magazines – growing up in Switzerland, we were intrigued by who would wear these clothes. They were sexy, playful, extreme, and sensual, completely different from anything we ever saw on the streets where we lived.

For this project, since Les Marins was the starting point, we wanted to play with stripes and explore the way they could wrap around the body. We had this idea of taking the stripes and letting them grow in new ways – they way they twist kind of feels like the Gaultier DNA becoming one with the Ottolinger DNA in a very organic way.” 

Check out the collection in the gallery above and grab your own pieces here