Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph

For many contestants, the Eurovision Song Contest is, sadly, the highlight of their fame. You can tick off, perhaps, a handful of names with resonance outside the competition's camp confines: Abba and Celine Dion, of course; possibly Buck's Fizz. But few have managed to keep themselves as constantly, consistently newsworthy in the 59-year history of the contest as this year's victor, Conchita Wurst.

Indeed, Wurst has risen, like the phoenix of her winning entry, from Eurovision. Her latest step? Closing Jean Paul Gaultier's autumn/winter 2014 haute couture show in Paris this week, a spot traditionally reserved for the collection's wedding dress, and seen as a badge of honour for any model. Conchita's dress was black, and while her hair was rouged and eyes kohled, she was still resolutely bearded. Monsieur Gaultier bowed at her feet when he took his curtain call.

Despite use of the female pronouns, Conchita isn't, technically, a woman. She's a drag persona created by 25-year-old Austrian singer Thomas "Tom" Neuwirth, a gay man who refers to his Conchita character as "she" but himself as resolutely male. "I would go to kindergarten in a skirt, and also to school," said Neuwirth in a recent interview with Gay Times. "I realised there was something different at about 11… and of course I thought there was something wrong."

 

However, Neuwirth's Eurovision victory as Conchita has been seen as a triumph against transphobia, leading to a headlining gig at London's Pride celebrations, with further engagements to do the same in Madrid and Stockholm. She attended Vienna's Life Ball – both dressed and accompanied by Gaultier, as it would happen – as well as the Cannes Film Festival.

All in all, Conchita is not exactly conventional fashion-week fare. At least, you would assume. In actual fact, her appearance at Gaultier's show has roots in the grandest tradition of hand-crafted, extortionately expensive clothing. Yves Saint Laurent, couture's grand maître in later years but an enfant terrible when he began in the 1960s, made a habit of inverting the pomp of couture with a "joke" bride to close his shows. One was cocooned in Aran knit to resemble a Matryoshka doll; another sported a bridal coat embroidered with the pithy statement "Love me forever, or never."

Conchita Wurst performing during the Eurovision Song Contest Conchita Wurst performing during the Eurovision Song Contest (AFP/GEtty Images)
Gaultier himself has certainly kept Saint Laurent's youthful flame of dissent for fashion's conventions burning. He has closed his shows with male and female "brides" in matching knits, swathed in tulle veils, and in 2011 chose Andrej Pejić, a then-male model noted for strikingly androgynous features, as the bride for his spring show (more recently, Pejić has described herself as living "in between genders" and has stated a preference for female pronouns).

Gaultier also harbours an unapologetic, almost inexplicable love of Eurovision. He has previously compered the French television broadcast of the contest, and attends the shows himself. He famously dressed Dana International, the transgender Israeli star who won the contest in 1998.

Read more: Conchita Wurst becomes catwalk model
Conchita Wurst labelled a 'genetically modified organism'
Conchita Wurst's win 'caused Balkan floods'
Conchita Wurst parade banned by Russian officials

Less well-known is the fact he wanted Dana to appear in his haute couture show that July – however, the show's date coincided with a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the expulsion of French Jews by the Nazis in 1942, prompting the singer to refuse. Her relationship with Gaultier remains intact – in 2011, he dressed her again in haute couture, for another Eurovision appearance.

You may recall Gaultier's appearances on British television – alongside the papier-mâché giraffes Pepe and Popo on Eurotrash – which cement his undeniable love of camp. But his championing of Conchita and Dana, on the catwalk and off, is something more fundamental, and more serious. Earlier this year, Gaultier told me: "I can't talk for others and I never did something just to provoke, but I wanted to show different beauties and personalities on the runway when I started. And I still do."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Provisioning Specialist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Provisioning Specialist is required to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Apprenticeships

    £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an outstanding opportunity for 1...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Support Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Support Engineer is required to join a well-...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Administrator - Swedish Speaking

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum