A look from the Jean Paul Gaultier Paris Fashion Week Haute Couture show.
Photo: Getty Images
As we recently reported, Jean Paul Gaultier’s main inspiration for his spring 2012 haute couture collection was late singer Amy Winehouse. It was a blatant tribute that included her signature beehive, beauty mark, ubiquitous cigarette, leather jacket and pencil skirt uniform (with Fred Perry-esque detailing), as well as a doo-wop quartet playing her music throughout the runway show. Some critics thought it was a “carbon copy” of Winehouse while others found it to be both “marvelous” and a fitting tribute. Mitch Winehouse (aka Amy’s dad), on the other hand, was feeling something else altogether. He took to his Twitter feed to cement his distaste of the collection.
We don’t support the Jean Paul Galtier collection. It’s in bad taste. Mitch
— mitch winehouse (@mitchwinehouse) January 26, 2012
First of all, WHOA, did this just get Ayn Rand-ian with that Gaultier misspelling? Perhaps. Winehouse senior, if you don’t know, is both a London cab driver and a singer himself. In the months following his daughter’s death, he helped set up the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which gives money to troubled youths. He seemed to care deeply for his child (of course) and hasn’t been particularly vocal regarding the number of other tributes performed after Amy’s death. BUT sending models down the runway in his child’s likeness six months after her tragic death? Is this taking it a bit too far? Let’s discuss.
Mr. Winehouse released a statement saying, “We’re proud of her influence on fashion but find black veils on models, smoking cigarettes with a barbershop quartet singing her music in bad taste. It portrays a view of Amy when she was not at her best, and glamorizes some of the more upsetting times in her life. That’s upsetting for her family.” OK, we can understand how he feels. It must be incredibly difficult for the Winehouse family to see a legion of models dressed as their daughter (especially one as spot-on as the final model in the show walking down the runway in a chilling bridal ensemble), but this image that Amy projected was iconic. And she gave it to the world through her creative work as an artist. It’s an image that doesn’t belong to the Winehouse family but to Amy as a performer. Yes, the image that made her most famous might have brought to mind unsavory times in her personal life—for her family specifically—but it was the image Amy projected to the world. The one we will forever remember her for, visually at least, and is it such a bad thing to associate beehives, moles, and leather-jacketed swagger with her memory?
Jean Paul Gaultier himself wasn’t coy about choosing Amy as his muse, and he explained after the show, “It’s not a funeral…they are happy brides.” Playing devil’s advocate here, what’s so happy about a bunch of girls in bridal outfits made to look like—excuse me—a dead girl? That’s macabre and perhaps is in poor taste. Just to dig deeper, since we’re discussing this and all, what if one of your family members died and then someone did an art show full of different versions of the person you loved? What if these items went up for sale? And what if the money generated from the sale of these items in your deceased family member’s likeness went to the artist and not to the foundation your family set up in his/her memory? As Mr. Winehouse told the press, “To see her image lifted wholesale to sell clothes was a wrench we were not expecting or consulted on.” (To be fair, IS it really their business?) Winehouse went on to say that Gaultier made no effort to donate to Amy’s foundation and was “purely about Gaultier making money.” This is a touchy situation, folks. What we know is THIS. Jean Paul Gaultier is a renowned fashion designer who adores women in music (witness his affection for both Lady Gaga and Beth Ditto), and it doesn’t seem like he wanted to do anything other than pay tribute to her. On the other hand, was it in poor taste to do so only six months after her death? AND not to donate to her charity?