Fashioning a Soviet Narrative: Jean Paul Gaultier’s Russian Constructivist Collection, 1986

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Abstract

As the Soviet Union neared its demise, major design houses created collections that included garments and accessories that drew upon its impending collapse. The year 1986 was particularly significant, as the Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s complementary policies, perestroika and glasnost, found their place on some of fashion’s greatest runways as what we can refer to as ‘fashnost’. Although a handful of designers created ‘fashnost’, Jean Paul Gaultier’s pieces were arguably the most expressive, focusing on the early period in the ussr’s history during which the Russian Constructivist art movement formed and thrived. In his collection, Gaultier utilized many of the techniques and motifs from the Constructivists’ body of work, capturing the essence of their aesthetic by integrating Cyrillic letters and numbers in block type, linear and geometric forms, and photomontage in his garments and accessories. Gaultier delved into the precarious social and political climate of the Soviet Union, drawing numerous connections between his own work and that of the Constructivists, and the ussr’s policies. This paper presents the preliminary research for the author’s master thesis at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

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