The collaborative collection between Jean Paul Gaultier and a guest designer is, at this point, not only a tradition in the Haute Couture Week calendar but also one of the moments to look forward to the most. The past collections resulting from this initiative have become some of the best from the past years, and when the name for the 2024 one was revealed, we were sure the bar was going to be kept as high as always. Irish designer Simone Rocha reflects on Gaultier’s house codes while honouring her own, creating a perfect synergy that concludes in a collection where the perfect balance was achieved and the merging of universes happens smoothly and beautifully.
There is something about Jean Paul Gaultier collaborative haute couture collections that always manages to hit the right spot of what fashion should be. Perhaps that something is the immense conceptual and tenchical archive the house possesses and kindly lends to the designer that will execute the collection each season, not only allowing but also encouraging the guest creator to blend their world with one already existent, becoming an equally original but referential experience –and when fashion is referential, that means it has been done right. There’s nothing better than finding easter eggs and conceptual ideas in the garments we witness on the runway; it’s there where the real communication between designer and audience happens. The details hidden in every look tell the story of the person who made it. Nothing in fashion happens by chance, and no bow or pearl arrives at a dress by itself; somebody has placed it there.
I’ve heard people say Simone Rocha’s Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture collection was too Rocha. Well, yes! It is too Rocha, but it is also too Gaultier. Maybe the issue is that we attribute the majority of elements found on the different looks, such as the shade of pink, the pearls, the bows, the roses, and the embroidery, solely to what Simone has been doing at her own label ever since its creation, but we fail to acknowledge the prominent and incredibly influential presence of all of these components in different JPG collections. Maybe that’s why the collaboration between these two minds flows so seemingly and smoothly; there’s a common delectable but provocative thread that unites both universes that Rocha knew exactly how to understand and translate into what we saw yesterday.
The starting point when dealing with the Gaultier legacy may seem evident if we think on a surface level: pointy boobs, corsets, and stripes. This, in fact, was present here, but the first look says a lot about the deeper dive Simone went through to collect other concepts to explore. The transparency and flow of the fabric let us see the pannier underneath that sets the historical tone of the garments to come—very Rocha, very Gaultier. But the fabric itself holds such delicate energy that the print that is placed strategically over it may be overlooked, as we guess it is something equally delicate. On a closer look, it is evident how this is not the case, and the Illuminati-like symbols –the hands, the snakes, and the roses– are far from this and closer to what Gaultier did in his Spring 1994 ready-to-wear collection, where the mesh-tattooed pieces were introduced, and have never stopped being iconic ever since. Exactly the same prints on the dress can be found on archive bags and transparent shirts of the French House, but they look more rough and harsh than what they do in such a soft dress, of course.
It seems like Rocha also found a lot of inspiration from the JPG Haute Couture collection of 2001, and it makes sense. There, silk laces link the different pieces of the garments, one of them being a dress with only fabric on the front, while the back is a complete net of laces in a corset-like way. In Rocha’s vision, these laces also serve the same purpose but in a more romantic way, with the knots being not so tight and restrictive but more flowy and softer, creating an original and interesting volume to the usually flat lace. The fun hairy shoes, some of the jewellery bras with equally shinny strings falling from them that overlap to mesh little dresses, and even the particular shade of pink that is so present throughout the collection are also elements drawn from this vintage Gaultier collection.
Going back to the quintessential Gaultier moments, they are of course present here as well, but we are now looking at them through Simone Rocha’s lenses. Pointy boobs are a must, and we never get tired of them. Here, some are found as provocative elements swirling over a very modest and sober combo of blazer and skirt, while others are slightly more curved than usual, pointing to the sky, resembling rose thorns. The corset is omnipresent, sometimes exploding in its full glory but sometimes presented in a more subtle way. In some dresses, the structure is a bit wider in the upper body, making the cleavge fall lower than usual, revealing the lingerie underneath them, in this case the corset, in a very sophisticated and intelligent way that gives the deserved importance to the undergarments that Gaultier has always been famous for. 
The stripes and the nautical elements gifted us some of the best pieces of this collection, with the iconic white-and-blue striped shirt jumping from a mere colour contrast to a fabric one, with the background being a transparent mesh and the stripes various blue lace strings that surround the body with cute bows and unfinished ends. The multiple sailor hats with different details and in a wide variety of shades are already one of the top desired items of this season.
While exploring someone else’s universe, Simone didn’t let it consume hers. Her iconic and important pearls are there to remind us who the designer of this season was, in case we forgot. A dress made entirely using the Irish crochet technique originated in her native country is there to reminisce about her roots, and the classic Rocha volumes grace the entire collection. The ballooinsh silhouette is explored using the cinching point to find many shapes depending on where it is more tight and where it is more loose, not only in the body but also the sleeves, the garments with the romantic goth vibe were also there. The look of Mr. Gaultier, who was there in the front row witnessing the collection at the same time that us and the thigh hug both designers shared after the show finale, is the best testimony to the success, the accuracy, and the perfect balance of worlds this collection achieved.