The Phoenix of Haute Couture: Haider Ackermann’s Jean Paul Gaultier

This season we witness Haider Ackermann channel his inner enfant terrible. Pointed bosoms and angular shoulders kick off the show as he introduces the Gaultier woman reborn.

Gaultier’s adoration of the female form is reborn time and again with each successor that takes a jab at progressing the narrative of the iconic brand. The house once again extends its legacy to a new guest designer. Fourth in line enters Haider Ackermann as he makes his debut in Haute Couture with Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2023 collection.

Last season, Olivier Rousteing’s interpretation brought us into a slick, sci-fi world with models stomping the runway in whopping platforms. Amidst Suicide chains—nose-to-ear chains—sheer fabrics, and ovular shades, Balmain’s Creative Director tapped into Gaultier’s punchy Joan of Arc meets punk collection, Les Tatouages. Ultimately, a disquisition on gender, Rousteing’s collection explored self-expression free of binaries with sexually ambiguous glass bodices, corsetry, and intricate weavings.

Fashion as a process was investigated in the collection; references to Gaultier’s legacy as both a designer and couturier took form in garments made from tape measures, thimbles, and pin cushions. It celebrated decades of uninhibited creativity with equal camp and fantasy—both elements vital to the Gaultier name.

This season we witness Haider Ackermann channel his inner enfant terrible. Pointed bosoms and angular shoulders kick off the show as he introduces the Gaultier woman reborn.

Courtesy of Jean Paul Gautier

Slyly making their way down the runway, models channel their inner feline. They are dominant, curious, and, ultimately, beguiling. As they grace the runway, a tense eerie tune begins to crescendo. All eyes are on them as spectators sit on the edge of their seats for a display of vestiary ferocity. Gaultier sat front row, titling his signature ovular glasses as he closely inspected what image his name would now conjure.

The house’s fascination with the merge of the woman and the animal is no secret. Playing on its founder’s sartorial exploration of their unison, Ackermann melds the beauty and the beast as indigo feathers burst from within a structured blazer. Paired with pleated trousers, a delightful contrast between austerity and flamboyance ensues.

Courtesy of Jean Paul Gautier

For a house long established as an emblem of maximalism and showmanship, the guest designer shocked attendees as a conservative take on glamour unfolded in satin and chiffon. It was equally ambitious and refreshing of Ackermann to explore Gaultier’s legacy through the lens of a minimalist.

At the core of Gaultier’s work was always an uncanny precision with every stitch sewn into his creations. Always exact, never superfluous, Ackerman’s draping reverberated the wonder such exacted tailoring can provoke.

A white, off-the-shoulder ensemble revealing the decolletage with glamorous ivory ridges epitomized this fixation on draping as a scepter for style. The feminine mystique is apparent in each fold as it swathes its model’s body in luxurious layers of radzimir. Pointed panels extend the top past the hips reaching outward in diagonal lines, further cinching the waist to theatrical proportions.

Oozing with sensuality, his translation of Gaultier’s vision manifested in slinky creations trailing in siren-like silhouettes. One mauve faille cage top with a matching mermaid skirt made of jersey, dubbed Pour une Victoire, created quite the spectacle. As the garment swivels around the neck, a thin panel of fabric stretches from her neck, panning outwards to accentuate the hips.

Courtesy of Jean Paul Gautier














Note the emphasis on the hips; these are at the forefront of Ackermann’s vision this season. Skewing anatomy with undulating, directional lines and tactful color blocking, he expands on the house’s fixation with the hourglass figure.

Large enveloping fabrics, too, play up the female form. A noteworthy mention is a black mandarin-collared wool gown. Slicing through its oversized silhouette, semblances of skin are revealed. Lined with a vibrant emerald satin and teal faille, a lithe figure is exposed beneath. In doing so, Ackermann tastefully materializes an opposition of constriction and release.

Courtesy of Jean Paul Gautier


Had attendees expected a vibrant spectrum of color? Probably not. Contrary to the fleshy tones and surfeit of black last season, the guest designer welcomes a vivid color palette to the affair. Chartreuse, teal, gold, and indigo made notable appearances on the runway. Most peculiar of all, a canary yellow entered with an alarming brightness as it draped a la Madame-Grès in satin voile jersey.

Cobalt blue, too, made a statement as faille cascaded into a bustier with a coned bust paired with khaki ultra-high waisted, poudre trousers. Bringing wearability into couture, he follows the house’s concept of democratizing fashion past the confines of the elite.

The collection also features extravagant displays of the Avant-Garde with ensembles, such as look 18, Pour la Paix. A pale lapis corset adorned with radiant gold sword feathers is just one of many accolades the young designer has accomplished this season. Paired with “sharp” grain de poudre trousers, Ackermann juxtaposes fantasy with function.

Courtesy of Jean Paul Gautier

Gaultier has long been known as one of the founding figures in fashion that aided in the liberation of women. Although the iconic French fashion designer was synonymous with the ultra-restrictive corset, a legendary contradiction lay within his oeuvre. Oppressive of the body yet empowering of the figure, Gaultier enabled women to be the wildest, most glamorous versions of themselves. By liberating them past the confines of being demure and subdued objects of desire, he introduced a new woman: one who fears not to embrace empowerment through sensuality.

It is often said Couture week is for the true lovers of fashion. Pushing boundaries and turning conventions on their heads, the industry finds itself perpetually scouring for what comes next after the defining accolades of the twentieth century.

While sensuality is constantly redefined through the seams of style, Jean Paul Gaultier remains at the core of the innovative spirit trailblazing today’s fashion. Through the guest designer program, we are reminded that, although the legendary designer may be officially retired, the defiant spirit of the enfant terrible continues to live on through the rising designers of today’s world. Ackermann is no exception, as he shows us Gaultier is a name that is forever crystallized in the glossy world of Haute Couture.

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