#SuzyCouture: Jean Paul Gaultier – Smoking, No Smoking

Milliner Stephen Jones gasped as male models, dressed with a tailored but witty elegance, walked the runway at the Jean Paul Gaultier show.

On their heads were variations on the Fez, that North African headdress that is so often seen as exotic in period films about the Orient.

“Jean Paul asked me, so I came,” Stephen said, sitting front row – close to Naomi Campbell, Farida Khelfa, and the French contenders to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Madame Monsieur.

Stephen told me the story of how, as an unknown young designer in Paris back in 1984, he was asked by the already-famous Gaultier to make hats. He called this first 80s Fez in velvet, with face mask attached, “Mystère” (mystery).

There was not much mystery to this current Gaultier show, though. It was based on sharp and often extremely inventive tailoring, although, as ever, the designer would conceal his brilliance with tricks and turns.

It seems ironic that while the “fashion shock” of the moment is streetwear elevated to high fashion, Gaultier continues to break only the codes he knows. Hence a set devoted to the “Smoking, No Smoking” tropes from 30 years ago, with giant posters on the walls and curtains painted with fumes of smoke.

What cannot be denied is that since the beginning of his career, Gaultier was in the vanguard – even the team leader – of fashion’s gender-blending. Concepts that both sexes accept so casually today were once something quite shocking.

Let’s hope that the fun and games along the gender-neutral path that Gaultier started to walk in the Eighties will appear in the theatrical follies to be presented on stage this autumn in Paris.