Jean Paul Gaultier turns fashion inside out

PARIS (AP) — For his spring-summer 2012 menswear show Thursday, Jean Paul Gaultier stripped fashion in every sense of the word, peeling off the industry’s glossy exterior to reveal its less-than-glamorous inner workings and sending out models clad in boxers.

In theory, the show was meant to be something like the moment in Wizard of Oz when the curtain is pulled aside to reveal the hidden machinations.

But the problem with taking this approach for a fashion show, at least from the designer’s perspective, is that the clothes have to fight for the audience’s attention with models in various states of undress — a battle the clothes nearly always lose.

Such was the case at Gaultier Thursday, where a small army of dressers and makeup artists prepared the models on a two-story scaffolding set up at the top of what’s usually the runway.

A disembodied voice read out a description of each look — old-school haute couture style — as the models alighted from the scaffolding and ambled around the showroom. They paused in front of tables specially reserved for buyers, who reached out to feel the fabrics — eyepopping Hawaiian prints, houndstooths and sailor striped knits — and jotted their orders down on special forms.

Product number tags dangled from the backs of the jackets and tuxedo trousers and from head-to-toe plaid suits topped off with matching plaid trench coats. Standout pieces included a trompe l’oeil jumpsuit that cleverly imitated a three-piece suit in robin’s egg blue and another pantsuit in fabric printed with the Paris street signs for the rue Saint Martin, where Gaultier has his headquarters.

Overall, it was a novel approach, but it had a clinical, forced feel to it lacking Gaultier’s trademark joie de vivre.