Amy Winehouse was truly a fashion icon”… or so John Paul Gaultier claimed, last Wednesday at his show at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week. Gaultier’s decision to send models down the run way donning dramatic beehives and OTT winged eyeliner, á la Amy, is the latest of controversies to surround the French designer. The colourful collection has been described by media friendly Mitch Winehouse as being in “bad taste”. Mitch claimed that the catwalk show, which was intended to be a tribute to the late singer, was a “wrench we were not expecting” to the Winehouse family.

Many fashion critics have celebrated Gaultier’s show. A feeling that the runway performance captured the essence of Winehouse has circulated throughout more fashion-inclined media sources and Gaultier’s sense that the catwalk was “very joyous” has been embraced by various writers. Gaultier explained to reporters that what Winehouse stood for, “above all, is uniqueness. Both in music and the way she dressed, she mixed a great many influences to create her style.”  Winehouse’s father has dismissed the designer’s homage to his daughter, and claims that Gaultier has  exploited his daughter’s legacy for his own profits, stating that the show was “purely about Gaultier making money”.

The Haute Couture collection was filled with beautiful clothing, incorporating Winehouse’s fondness of polo shirts and pencil skirts and though the models avoided the ballet pumps that became part of the artist’s trademark look; her retro and edgy style was commemorated exquisitely. Indeed, to say that Gaultier chose to exhibit Winehouse’s personal style for his own personal gain would be unfair, yet one must question Gaultier’s approach and choice of timing on displaying his homage to the style icon. Within his statement, issued to The Sun newspaper, Mitch Winehouse explained that the family had “had a difficult week with the six-month anniversary of Amy’s death” and that Gaultier’s decision to go forth and show his collection in the week which six months had passed since Amy’s tragic death, was something that Mitch and his family were “not consulted on”.

John Paul Gaultier is no stranger to controversy: the designer was in the press last year for defending John Galliano when Galliano went on a ‘pro- Hitler’ Anti- Semitic rant and was fired by Dior. Gaultier said of Galliano, “Everything he has done has not revealed someone who is racist – quite to the contrary”, his own profile was raised, and the attention focused on his career and collections was increased. Could it be said that by failing to ask for permission and failing to offer a donation to the Amy Winehouse Foundation – was Gaultier well aware that his Haute Couture Collection would gather a great deal more exposure?

While it is true that fashion should remain separate and untangled from tabloid speculation and scandalous claims, Gaultier’s decision to parade girls dressed up as Amy Winehouse down his catwalk at a fashion week was inevitably going to end in some kind of dispute. And with Mitch Winehouse involved, the dispute is always going to end up in the tabloids. It would seem that, the sooner people are able to pay respect to the singer in their own way, without a whole polemic forming, the faster Amy Winehouse will be remembered for the inspiring icon that she was, and not the outrageous uproar that surrounded her.

Jessica Newsome

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