By Pema Bakshi

At Jean Paul Gaultier, Julien Dossena Does What He Does Best—Push Great Ideas Forward

With a smattering of IYKYK references, the Paco Rabanne creative director guest steers Gaultier's Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023 ship to triumph with the gall and sensuality of the house's founder.
PARIS, FRANCE – JULY 05 : Natalia Vodianova walks the runway during the Jean Paul Gaultier by Julien Dossena Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023-2024 fashion show as part of the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week on July 5, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

As the latest guest designer for Jean Paul Gaultier, following Haider Ackermann, Glenn Martens, Chitose Abe, and Olivier Rousteing, Julien Dossena took over the reins for Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023-2024.

The presentation was held at Gaultier’s Paris headquarters on July 5, in a deliberately shoulder-to-shoulder setting, with Gaultier himself viewing the collection for the first time along with the rest of the world. And if the legendary designer’s smiles didn’t spell enough, the show was a fashion lover’s delight. Across thirty looks, Dossena, who has been the creative director of Paco Rabanne for almost a decade, proved his knack for respectful reinvention. Just as he revived the Paco Rabanne brand while staying true to the design foundations of his predecessor, Dossena put forward a collection that was rich with the kind of referential treatment that only comes from a deep admiration.

Drawing from the sprawling archives of the house of Gaultier, the designer managed to run with some of the house’s most iconic moments without falling into copy-and-paste territory.

Veteran supermodel Natalia Vodianova, who has walked for both designers in the past, opened the show in a two-piece black set with heavy gold embroidery and a braided headpiece that donned the heads of many models following. Next came a more direct homage to his host with a navy suit in pinstripe, cinched and structured in a most Gaulterian way.

And from there, it was a Where’s Waldo of references, borrowed from across the designer’s five-decade-long career and merged seamlessly with Dossena’s fresh eye. We saw oversized faux fur trapper hats inspired by the ones at Gaultier’s Fall 2019 Haute Couture show, the dragon-embroidered corset from Gaultier’s first show, and a layered necktie bustier that referenced work from his farewell show in 2020. His blue-and-white marinière stripes were reimagined in a fuzzy cropped turtleneck with a blurred effect, and deconstructed tailoring and apron layers from his 1988 show ‘La Concierge est dans l’Escalier’ made a subtle appearance.

Even the famous cone bra made a few appearances in the form of a ruched silver midi dress with a layered bubble hem and multiple bodices. For the diehard fans, Dossena threw in a clever reference to his host’s costumery for Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element with an off-shoulder velvet gown adorned with red roses that mimicked an outfit worn by Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod character.

But this was no regurgitation. As we’ve seen with his work at the Spanish fashion house, Dossena possesses a unique ability to find inspiration in the archives and deliver something that pushes the idea forward. While there was none of Rabanne’s trademark A-line silhouettes or retro party dresses, his touch was present throughout. Liquid chainmail and armour-like embellishments, as well as lace hems and other lingerie-inspired pieces, offered just enough of the designer’s own perspective without corrupting either legacy. Overall, the merging of the two worlds was fused by a shared appreciation for vintage glamour found in graphic embroidery, animal motifs and form-flattering gowns that made for a seamless partnership.

Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention looks 13 and 24 for their inclusion of beaded pubic bushes. After all, one thing that is key to guest steering Gaultier’s ship is a taste for theatrics and an approach to fashion that doesn’t take itself too seriously. He may be one of the most revered designers in history, but he’s always done everything with a sense of humour, and Dossena managed to show he’s down to play around with the utmost tact.

Scroll on for the standout looks from Jean Paul Gaultier by Julien Dossena Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2023-2024.

Keep up with all the Haute Couture stories here.

This story first appeared on GRAZIA International.