At Hermès today, just before our eyes adjusted to the runway lights, our noses were met with a distinctly earthy smell. And we soon discovered why. The backdrop opened to reveal live, musky horses circling inside a pen. The audience erupted into applause, perhaps because the theme of Jean Paul Gaultier’s last collection for the storied French house, originally a harness and bridle company, could not have been any clearer. It was, literally, equestrian.
Besides Karlie Kloss in a black leather bodysuit, looking a little like a mare herself, the show began innocently enough. There were demure, short-sleeved blouses, high-waisted pants, and cream vests casually draped around the front and ready for the racetrack. These added an element of fluidity to the clothes, which slowly evolved into something a lot less innocent. A transparent jacket alongside a similarly transparent Kelly bag had the appearance of see-through plastic, while pantsuits and shorts came in acid orange, inky blues and the bloodiest of reds. Then came leather corsets molded around the body like saddles. Riding crops as props brought the kinky message home.
It’s no secret there are multiple personalities to Gaultier. Here he revealed two of them—the elegant nobleman and the naughty schoolboy—in equal measure. A few of the models carried canes, but they hardly needed them. Who would when walking one of Gaultier’s strongest collections to date?