When Jean Paul Gaultier announced that his latest runway show spectacular would be his last, he promised that his couture line would “continue with a new concept.” On Wednesday morning, Gaultier finally shared what he had in mind. “Each season, I will invite a designer to interpret the codes of the House,” he announced on Instagram. The first one up, he continued, will be Sacai’s Chitose Abe, whom he posted a photo of wearing one of his signature royal blue boiler suits. According to Sacai’s Instagram, Abe will debut her take on the house during the fall 2020 couture shows in July. 

The pairing comes as something of a surprise. Since founding Sacai in 1999, Abe has taken a low-key, trend- and celebrity-averse approach that’s quietly amassed the label a cult following. Collaborations with Nike, Birkenstock, and Adidas have been the extent of her forays into the mainstream. 

Gaultier, on the other hand, has been anything but quiet since founding his namesake house in 1982. His barrier-breaking, sex-charged designs, which he presented as if they were theater, quickly earned him the reputation of the fashion industry’s resident enfant terrible and “king of kitsch.” It’s one he more than lived up to in January, when he went out with a bang by cheekily staging his own mock funeral. Recently, his celebrity ties have expanded from Madonna to the Kardashians, not to mention everyone from Vanessa Hudgens to Cardi B. (His ’90s op art print has proven particularly popular.) 

Issa Lish in a coffin
Jean-Paul Gaultier Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2020 show.

Still, in a statement to WWD, Gaultier insisted that he and Abe “have many things in common creatively and a similar vision of fashion.” He plans to give Abe “complete creative freedom,” following a guest designer template he’s been contemplating since the '90s. For her part, Abe praised Gaultier’s “unique vision of subversive femininity and his originality, both of which I’ve strived toward in my work since the beginning.” 

Of course, Abe is just the first in what will presumably be a long line of designers who’ll partner with Gaultier. He has no shortage of creative friends—Nicolas Ghesquière and Christian Lacroix were just some of those who attended his final runway show—but Gaultier’s choice of Abe suggests he’ll be steering clear of big names, giving designers who might not have had the chance otherwise to take a stab at couture. This time around, that’s come with an added bonus: Abe’s appointment marks a rare addition to the number of women of color helming major fashion brands. 

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