Jacques Brinon, Associated Press
PARIS — The one-time enfant terrible of French fashion, Jean Paul Gaultier, embraced his age, sending out a fall-winter 2011-12 ready-to-wear collection Saturday that pushed back against Botox, fillers and the chimera of eternal youth and declared gray beautiful.
Gaultier also gave a measured reaction to the high-drama saga that has riveted the fashion world for the past week — the fall of brilliant Dior designer John Galliano, who was sacked Tuesday after 15 years with the luxury supernova amid allegations he made anti-Semitic insults. The scandal, with its airs of Greek tragedy, has cast a pall over Paris' ready-to-wear shows and elicited a wide gamut of reactions from industry insiders, from catty remarks from some to impassioned pleas in Galliano's defense from others.
"Everything that he has ever done shows him to be not a racist, but just the opposite," Gaultier told reporters after his show.
Asked about a video that went viral on the internet that shows an inebriated Galliano, drinking alone at a Paris bar, telling the people at the next table "I love Hitler," Gaultier said, "I think that with video we can make people say things they really didn't. He said certain words, but in what context, what questions did they ask him, how long did it last?
"The only harm he's done to anyone is to himself," said Gaultier. "I find it really quite sad," he said, adding fashion "is a pitiless milieu."
Dior went ahead with its runway show on Friday, showing the Galliano-designed collection sans the designer — who is rumored to be in rehab in Arizona — and his signature John Galliano line is to be shown in a presentation to certain media outlets on Sunday.
Saturday, then, provided a brief respite from the all-consuming story.
Besides Gaultier's gray behive-topped collection, inventive Dutch duo Viktor & Rolf sent out a battle-ready looks that looked like what Joan of Arc would have worn to a cocktail party. France's reigning queen of knitwear, Sonia Rykiel, sent out an outwear-focused collection, while Japan's Tsumori Chisato sent out wacky, colorful knits that appeared aimed at dethroning Rykiel. That most Parisian of labels, Azzaro, continued to churn out little black dresses that hit the sweet spot between modesty and sexiness.
Newcomer Caroline Seikaly — whose abbreviated cocktail dress in Solstice lace became an instant hit after Madonna wore it to a Marc Jacobs fashion show last year — presented 14 looks that proved she can do more than just ultra-feminine dresses. The 37-year-old Franco-Libano-American, who divides her time between Paris and Beirut, sent out slick, glam rock pant- and short-suits in silver jacquard and gold lame. Seikaly paging David Bowie.
Paris' nine-day-long ready-to-wear marathon moves into the final stretch with an action-packed day six including shows by Hermes, Celine and Kenzo, as well as the much-anticipated presentation at John Galliano and the Givency display by Riccardo Tisci, a preternaturally talented Italian who's the rumor mill's top contender to replace Galliano at Dior.
JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
Instead of fighting its age, Gaultier's collection embraced it.
"It was about women who say 'I don't want to look like my teenage daughter,'" Gaultier told journalists in a post-show interview. "It's the 'bourgeoisie sans age,'" a catchy rhyme in French that translates, flatly in English, as the ageless bourgeois lady.
The 46-year-old French actress Valerie Lemercier opened the show, a modest affair by the standards of the man who gave the world Madonna's pointy-cone bra as daywear and has made a career out of showing skin.
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