After Teasing “The End,” Jean Paul Gaultier is Making a Ready-To-Wear Comeback

Jean Paul Gaultier crowdsurfing at his final couture show
Photo by Stephane Cardinale/Corbis via Getty Images

Jean Paul Gaultier, the label, has finally shared the meaning of its past two mysterious, enigmatic Instagram posts declaring “the end.” Turns out it was just an excuse to start a new beginning. On Wednesday, the brand announced it is returning to ready-to-wear 16 months after the brand’s eponymous founder personally retired from the runway. In keeping with the label’s new approach to couture—tapping a new designer each season, starting with Sacai’s Chitose Abe—Gaultier has enlisted five lesser-known labels to “reinterpret the JPG codes” for the upcoming collection, Les Marins. (Gaultier’s signature breton stripes will no doubt figure prominently; the title means “the sailors” in French.) The new era debuts on Friday at 5 a.m. EST.

Returning to the label’s use of faux newspapers, bearing all-caps headlines like “Paris is literally shaking right now,” Gaultier put together a front-page to share the pick of collaborators: Nicola Lecourt Mansion, Alan Crocetti, Marvin M’Toumo, Ottolinger, and Palomo Spain. (The latter shares Gaultier’s love of risqué adverts). Gaultier also tapped noted fan Bella Hadid, along with the up-and-comers Omar Sesay and Qaher Harhash, to star in his new era’s first campaign.

All in all, it seems the label was just being dramatic when he posted just two words—“The end.”—last week on Instagram. The 69-year-old designer may be stepping even further back, but his name and label aren’t about to go away. After all, we’re in the midst of a JPG renaissance: Like Hadid, the Kardashians have been repeatedly sporting archival pieces pastiche see-through dresses and tops. In the last six months, searches for vintage Gaultier on the e-commerce site Vestiaire Collective reportedly jumped 570 percent.

The news comes as a relief to JPG fans, who’ve come to accept that Gaultier has had enough of churning out collections—at one point, up to 18 per year. The designer stepped away from menswear and ready-to-wear in favor of couture six years ago, only to abandon the latter less than two years later to focus on fragrance. Naturally, he went out with a bang. The last Gaultier couture show was, as always, a spectacle, with 230 looks and a standout cast including Rossy de Palma, Erin O’Connor, Gigi Hadid, Karen Elson, Karlie Kloss, Lily Cole, and Farida Khelfa. As usual, it clocked in at more than 45 minutes, and included a reprisal of Coco Rocha’s iconic Irish dance.

It’s not hard to see why such a seasoned designer would want to take a break. Gaultier launched his career more than half a century ago, assisting the visionary French designer Pierre Cardin before launching his eponymous label in 1982. Revered (and loathed) for his gender-bending extravagance, he quickly established himself as French fashion’s enfant terrible—most prominently with his cone bra for Madonna. (He actually originally designed the infamous garment for his teddy bear.)