For her first couture collection, Simone Rocha debuted a perfect fusion of coquette ethereality and Jean Paul Gaultier’s signature edge in front of a star-studded front row.
Kylie Jenner and Kelly Rutherford, sat beside one another, looked on at the Paris presentation from the London-based designer, the sixth guest courtier of Gaultier’s fashion house following his 2020 retirement and preceded by the likes of Rabanne’s Julien Dossena and Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing.
“What I have really learnt from the haute couture experience is to slow down, which has been amazing because ready-to-wear is such a fast pace,” Rocha previously told Harper’s Bazaar. It was “amazing,” she said, to “slow down a reset” after the demands of RTW have her going “100 miles a minute.”
“I have been forced to take a step back and consider each garment internally, externally, really explore it, because haute couture is about specific fits,” she added.
“That interaction with the body has been an incredibly stimulating experience.”
The spring ’24 line certainly pandered to Rocha’s cult, bow-enthused following, the hallmark daintiness of her ready-to-wear pieces of seasons past — ribbons, pearls, ruffles, lace, puffed sleeves — a distinct thread throughout the collection.
But each piece’s fairytale elegance was intentionally balanced by visually structural, heavy elements like jewels, metal and boning, a common theme in Gaultier’s past work, including nods to his infamous cone bras and nautical motifs.
“I wanted to make something that was attractive, provocative, playful, sensual, feminine and strong,” Rocha told British Vogue.
The two designers, she told the Guardian after the show, both had “a love of the breast and the hip and the female form,” and their design language “felt like we were having a really natural conversation.”
For instance, brassiere — traditionally associated with womanly sex appeal — was transformed into sharp points, some even in the shape of a rose thorn, mirroring the metallic roses hand-carried down the catwalk.
She continued: “Haute couture is historical and romantic, and even some of my collections play on these qualities, so it’s about introducing modernity, reality, an almost scientific approach to this project, to push it forward for today.”
Heavenly tulle, chiffon and silk were grounded by gem-encrusted shell bras, silver-coated bow earrings, stiff corsets and one blouse made from individual chrome flowers, akin to armor.
A pearlescent nude frock, for one, opened the show, the fragility of the sheer fabric and fluttering earrings, made from hair and tied into a bow, offset by a rigid, visible pannier underneath, creating an exaggerated silhouette at the waist.
The same jutted hip was present in multiple gowns — a black dress with a cone bra adornment, a silver, strapless number — and appeared more subtly in maritime-inspired “underwear as outerwear” padded hot pants, which were paired with a sailor’s cap and a delicate, mesh top with ribbon as stripes. On others, satin ribbon laced up the skirts and the straps of the structured bodice, letting the bow’s tails drag and billow well below the hemline.
And, true to the Gaultier house, Rocha paid homage with the inclusion of oversized garments: a ballooning, ruched navy gown, an extension of Rocha’s play with heavily layered fabric, and a procession of frocks with bulbous skirts cinched just under the knee a glaring contrast from the rest of the line.
“I wanted to play on this idea of restriction and release,” Rocha told British Vogue. “There is a really strong feminine feeling in much of Gaultier’s work; women harnessing their power and celebrating it.”