The inspiration behind Jean Paul Gaultier’s latest collection probably seemed like a good idea at the time — a tribute to Amy Winehouse, complete with beehive wigs, cat-eye liner and models smoking cigarettes. Unfortunately, Winehouse’s dad, Mitch, and pal Kelly Osbourne were not amused, according to People magazine and E!
Mitch Winehouse slammed the designer for portraying a “view of Amy when she was not at her best,” while Osbourne said she found the collection to be “lucratively selfish and distasteful.”
I’m hoping that Osbourne meant ludicrously instead of lucratively, because if there’s one thing true of couture it is that, as expensive as it is, it’s hardly a profit driver for a designer. The purpose of runway is actually to drive sales of more profitable parts of a designer’s collection – handbags, perfume, sunglasses and, sometimes, ready-to-wear.
This, of course, makes Mitch Winehouse’s and Osbourne’s complaints all the more ironic. Designers dream of creating runway shows that get buzz — even if it’s negative. It isn’t likely too many people want to wear the late Alexander McQueen’s more outrageous designs (unless they’re Lady Gaga), but the brand’s craziest designs made McQueen a recognizable name for women who want to be fashion forward. I doubt anyone is going to rush out to buy this Commes des Garcons dress, but it will get people talking. Runway is, essentially, theater, and outrageous theater at that. By complaining about Gaultier’s tribute to Amy Winehouse, her defenders are only reminding fashionistas about Gaultier and creating more interest in his brand.
But what about the clothes? If you get over the beehive wigs and just focus on the clothing, there seems to be very little here that would insult Winehouse’s memory. Yes, some of the looks are pointedly disheveled, with asymmetrical lines that look almost windswept. But much of the collection riffs on some of the most wearable and appealing elements of Winehouse’s trademark style. Pencil skirts, cinched waists, peek-a-boo bras and monster high heels capture the singer’s feisty, ’60s inspired look. I’d bet Winehouse, were she alive, would ask Gaultier to pass along some freebies.
Of course, it has only been six months since Winehouse passed away. Perhaps the wound is too fresh for those close to the artist to see any co-opting of her style, no matter how attractive, as an insult. Gaultier might have wanted to make a phone call and give Mitch Winehouse a heads-up and maybe a plane ticket to come see the show. But then, that wouldn’t have created much of a buzz, would it?
Do you think Gaultier was disrespectful to Winehouse’s memory? What did you think of the clothes?