Why Jean Paul Gaultier is obsessed with the sari
The celebrated Indophile gushes over his favourite muse
ELLE: What about the sari inspires you to recreate it in new ways?
Jean Paul Gaultier: I have always been attracted to the beauty of traditional clothes; whether it is the kimono in Japan, the sari in India, or the Breton headdress in France. Embracing tradition makes us stronger. I have taken the cherished garment and created something new… something that offers a new expression, while respecting its original form.
ELLE: How did the connection between winter wear and the sari come about in your F/W 2017-18 collection?
JPG: I imagined a woman who travelled around the world and had lost track of the seasons—she could very well have found herself in Gstaad, wearing a sari. With global warming, seasons do not have the same meaning any more. It can be 20°C in winter and there can be snow in summer. The inspiration comes from the sari, but my reinventions are not literal. For instance, I have wool and cashmere versions [of the sari] in grey and black—not something that you would find in a traditional sari.
ELLE: As a Frenchman, how do you view the sari?
JPG: With awe and admiration. The drape, the colours and the fabrics… saris have made me dream since my first trip to India, when I was barely 20. Indian women look royal in saris: it lends them greater beauty. As an outfit, it is extremely generous; it blends well with all shapes.
ELLE: The sheer black sari-inspired ensemble worn by model Vanessa Axente is said to be the starting point of your collection. Tell us more.
JPG: If you look at the print, it’s Paris in the snow, and the transparent tulle takes the form of a sari over an evening gown. I have reimagined an Indian woman in Paris, in winter. And then I thought about winter sports and mountains; little by little, there were wool saris in the show.
ELLE: Which is your favourite recreation of the sari, among shows past and present?
JPG: All of them! I cannot choose between my children.