There are face masks, and then there are Jean Paul Gaultier face masks. This week, fashion’s maestro of mayhem showcased an assemblage of artistic mouth sheaths created by his house’s haute couture team while in lockdown. Sailor stripes on deck!
The kinky creations saw the team remix the august house’s classic codes, with leatherwork, bondage zips, and corset-style lacing all present. It should be noted, however, that the one-of-one creations do not comply with medical standards and were created solely as art. That’s a shame, as I would love to have swaggered into my local grocery store rocking one like this:
A lot of us might still be adapting to the fact that face masks are now essential wear (I will cry if I forget mine after leaving the house one more time) but Gaultier’s relationship goes way back. Some 25 years, in fact.
It was Fall 1995 when Gaultier held what has come to be known as the Mad Max show, widely regarded as one of the greatest ever. A cyberpunk masterclass, it took place five years before Y2K hysteria gripped the world, leading some to declare that Gaultier was the first designer to truly appreciate just how fundamental technology would be to the future of fashion. Let a fresh-faced Tim Blanks guide you through it.
The women’s collection riffed off a cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic theme (hence the name), and included those famous Victor Vasarely–inspired bodysuits that have ended up in the wardrobes of Kim Kardashian-West and Charli XCX. It’s the masks, however, which feel decidedly germane in the current day.
“In Japan when you are very polite you [wear] a mask when you are sick like not to give your sickness to the others,” said Gaultier at the time. Several different styles are present, but my favorite is the one that looks like a cross between contemporary Nike techwear and a Hannibal Lecter muzzle. They’re fire, and you can only wonder which archive they now rest in.
Gaultier isn’t the only designer to get experimental in the mask department. Rick Owens delivered Predator vibes for SS19 (yours for a mere $2,592) and avant-gardist Walter Van Beirendonck’s obsession with the accessory eventually led to him opening an exhibition in Rotterdam a few years back. You’ll probably recognize these efforts by Maison Margiela, Alexander McQueen, and Raf Simons, too.
Still, there are few that feel as oddly prescient as Gaultier’s creations. We’ve already covered how face masks are here to stay, so maybe we’ll get to see some fresh reimaginings in sacai’s Chitose Abe’s guest collection for the house next year. After all, isn’t there a new Mad Max movie on the way?
You can find a selection of non-medical grade face masks to buy here.