If you’re a bit of a fashion nerd like me, you might know that Fashion Weeks around the globe have recently wrapped up. Pouring through the collections while cursing my shallow pockets and wondering if Karl Lagerfeld is indeed human, I got to thinking… How many of these great creatives have lent their considerable talents to the big screen? Pedantic control freak that I am, I compiled my top list, and decided to share it over the next few weeks.
The Fifth Element (1997), Director Luc Besson, Designer Jean-Paul Gaultier
Other than being perfect fodder for sexy Halloween costumes for those brave enough, The Fifth Element, to me, epitomises nineties fashion. The wanton use of latex and rubber, the not so subtly coloured hair, pearlescent synthetic duds, giant faux fur… if you attended a rave in the nineties, you would have witnessed any or all of these first hand by the dozen. Gaultier took these elements and pumped them up to sci-fi standards to create some of the most iconic costumes in film.
Packed with Gaultier’s bondage and debauched Edwardian references, The Fifth Element has become the designer’s most recognisable foray into costume design for film. As he had done previously in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989) and The City Of Lost Children (1995), he designed original costumes for the protagonists, and put the extras in previous collections. Gaultier injected his love of fetish into Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo most, from the thermobandages, to the orange rubber suspender/g-string hybrid she so gleefully accepts (‘ooohhh, tank oo’). Bruce Willis’ character, Korben Dallas, has a more utilitarian costume. However, it doesn’t escape Gaultier’s touch- even Willis had to don some brightly coloured rubber. He must have felt rather relieved to wear a plain tuxedo in the second half of the film! And what a plain tuxedo it is- together with the Japanese girls’ uniforms, they almost look out of place in their conventionality.
One character that doesn’t disappoint is Gary Oldman’s evil Zorg: in his latex pinstripes and opalescent shirts, he takes business chic to another level, regardless of his choice of headgear. The most outlandish outfits however, are reserved for Chris Rock’s Ruby Rhod. Even in the fantasy future of Besson’s mind, celebrities have their very own fashion planet.
Military uniforms are suitably stark, as are the priests’ garbs (my personal favourite- I wanted Vito Cornelius’ woolen coat and his assistant’s rubbery hat). On the other hand, the flight attendants’ skin tight corseted confections, with their carefully placed cutouts, are still resonating today in the bandage dresses hanging in every starlet’s wardrobe. These sexy uniforms and Gaultier’s ever present sailors are still inspiring, 16 years down the track.