The look was boudoir meets boardroom at Jean Paul Gaultier yesterday, on the last day of Paris couture week.
Suits overlaid with fishnet fabric, tight pencil skirts with lace inserts, and silky pyjama trousers with daringly sheer panels on the thigh showed why the French designer is known for tailoring with a twist. Of course, this being Gaultier – the designer famed for creating Madonna's provocative stage outfits on her Blonde Ambition tour and appearing on the Nineties pop culture television series Eurotrash – the twists tend to be dramatic, and frequently overtly sexy.
While many couture clients undoubtedly want their money's worth in terms of lavish ballgowns consisting of beads, bows and huge swathes of fabric, others come to Paris looking for an exquisitely fitting, and quite possibly seductive, trouser suit or cocktail dress.
This is where Gaultier comes into his own, deconstructing the traditional suit and adding elements of corsetry while playing with the classic Parisian glamour of pieces such as the trench and le smoking – otherwise known as the tuxedo. The latter was reworked in several garments, notably a plunging jumpsuit with inverted lapels covering the model's breasts and a black wrap dress with one shoulder modelled by former Chanel muse Ines de la Fressange. Most of the clothes came in classic black and white, with a few touches of nude.
Alongside the tailoring were several dramatic evening dresses, largely rendered in net and lace. Gaultier's love of underwear as outerwear was evident in a mini crinoline cage skirt rendered in nude and silver crochet, and a cream mesh dress with a small padded bustle. According to catwalk tradition at the couture shows, the final look was a wedding dress. However, the dress in question was anything but conventional, featuring a long, sheer net skirt through which a net corset and knickers were clearly visible. This was less a dress for a blushing bride than for a blushing congregation.
Later at Valentino, the emphasis was firmly on more conservative old-world polish. This was the first show since designer Alessandra Facchinetti was unceremoniously dismissed. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, who were previously accessories designers at the label and succeeded as joint creative directors after Facchinetti, opened the collection with neat skirt suits in cream, guava and purple, decorated with scroll roses and ruched motifs. These were followed by jewelled opera coats, and long evening dresses in parma violet, emerald and, of course, red. It was elegant enough, but somewhat Valentino-by-numbers.
Givenchy's spring/summer couture collection, revealed the previous evening, showed designer Riccardo Tisci's take on gothic romance. Some of the evening dresses, such as a brooding black gown with huge shoulders, are likely to make it on to the red carpet. Given the subtle, moody nature of their design, they are more suited to the star of an indie film than a blockbuster.