Are Jean Paul Gaultier’s classic op-art prints the new leopard, an aggressively bold pattern that, thanks to sheer longevity, is now considered basic?
Kim Kardashian West was the latest celebrity to drape herself in the retina-distorting pattern, her tiny feud with Gaultier apparently now behind her. And similar pieces have been spotted lately on everyone from Cardi B to Charli XCX to Vanessa Hudgens.
That’s not bad for a motif that the French designer first presented on the runway all the way back in 1995.
Though we should note, full credit for the prints cannot go to Gaultier alone. The designer found inspiration in the work of the artist Victor Vasarely, the French godfather of op art. Born in 1907, Vasarely was known for paintings and sculptures that momentarily trick the eye. And while his oeuvre may not be held in the same esteem as that of the Pop art masters—at least as far as art world pricing goes—we can all agree that his work is, well, neat. (And we’ll be sure to keep an eye on the market in the wake of this recent fashion trend.)
Gaultier’s Vasarely-inspired pieces were a hit when they first debuted and have taken center stage once again as ’90s throwback fits are all the rage. And the designer’s recent final show and subsequent retirement from the runway have probably only served to extend the nostalgia.
Let’s take a look at where we’ve noticed the prints recently:
The pop princess wore a piece in the video for her Herve Pagez and Diplo collaboration, “Spicy.” “[R]eally sticking my butt out in this pic. V impressed w myself,” she wrote on Instagram.
The wardrobe department for Rent: Live outfitted Vanessa Hudgens in the print for her role as Maureen, the performance artist. We guess that makes sense considering Rent is such a milestone of ’90s culture—though none of the characters could have actually afforded Gaultier. (Shoplifting might have been a possibility, however.)
Cardi wore a dress from the collection while promoting Hustlers last year. Indeed, this is the very frock in which she uttered her highly meme-able “Now wait a minute, actresses” remark to her costars—history in its own right.
The British singer Jorja Smith wore the print just this week to the Brit Awards. It apparently made her feel like a comic book hero. “What’s my super power?” she wrote on Instagram.
Kim Kardashian West
Noted fashion-history enthusiast (seriously, she’s worn a ridiculous amount of ’90s-era vintage, even if only to lounge around and take pictures) Kim Kardashian West has now finally gotten into the trend by wearing a fit while hanging out with husband Kanye West at a KFC in Paris.
Mary Tyler Moore
With all due respect to these current girls, they’re really just eating the dust of the late, great Mary Tyler Moore. Back in the ’90s, the sitcom icon wore a bodysuit version of the print for an appearance on The Tonight Show.
Nineties nostalgia (and Jay Leno) aside, we can see why the print might hold particular appeal today. At a time when everyone is contouring their faces with makeup and altering their selfies with FaceTune, optical illusion is the order of the day. It’s like Photoshop rendered in fabric form. That the pattern also seems to resemble warped pixels only makes it more relevant. It’s fashion from a different era that serves as a sly commentary on current times. Certainly, everyone who wears the pattern can’t help but upload it to their Instagram.