We Celebrate The 20th Anniversary Of Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Fifth Element Fashions
This week marks the 20th anniversary of Luc Besson’s cult classic The Fifth Element. While there may be room for debate when it comes to gaping plot holes and slightly dodgy special effects, what remains undisputed is the genius of Jean-Paul Gaultier, fashion’s enfant terrible, who dreamt up the film’s costumes. And when we say costumes, we mean costumes – Monsieur Gaultier designed over 1000 looks for the film, all the way down to personally checking every costume of 300 extras for one scene. In fashion terms, that’s about ten seasons worth of work, not to mention the designs that didn’t make the final cut. Together with Jean-Claude Mézières, the two conceived and created the films aesthetic, which, unlike those future-based films that went before, abandoned dingy, rain-soaked noir into something altogether more flamboyant.
Where else to start than the bandage/bondage situation below. Is this what we can expect from 23rd century hospital attire? Noomi Rapace’s bandaged look from Prometheus would seem to confirm. Happy days if you’re a supermodel waif like Milla Jovovich, but where the rest of us mere mortals are concerned, it’s probably best to just stick to those shapeless green gowns. And what about practicality? It’s undeniably lightweight, but what if you needed to relieve yourself at short notice? You’d hope there was some sort of quick release system, maybe a button that, once pressed, sends the bandages whizzing away like a tape measure. Gary Oldman’s character of Zorg was verbally sketched by Besson as a “dandy, nouveau riche, Hitler”… umm, moving on. That said, what says nouveau riche better than shite hair and a soul patch? Well, shiny fabrics apparently, and to ramp it up a few notches, add an impractically high collar. And, if in doubt: go matchy-matchy. Case in point: Zorg’s very own iridescent waistcoat/shirt combo. At least it’s wipe clean…If there’s one thing we all learned from Gaultier and Bruce Willis in the Fifth Element, it would be that vests are hard. Very hard. Most especially in bright orange. And made of ribbed rubber. A low cut back with straps is, needless to say, an added bonus. Torn vests too. Because what better indication of raging masculinity than a tuxedo that has been ripped by fighting, shooting guns, jumping behind cover, all of the above? A utility jacket. With lots of pockets. Because if you’re going to save the world, then you’ll need a lot of pockets to put all your man-gear in. And a puffy sleeve. Just one though, the left one. Wouldn’t want to give off the wrong signs.Who could possibly forget about extensive use of neoprene? Not the internet, apparently. Neoprene, for those wondering, is the same material used for wetsuits. I put a wetsuit on once. I didn’t feel sexy. In fact, whatever the complete opposite of sexy is, I was it, in that moment. This was sexy neoprene though, evidenced by the blonde-bobbed air hostesses and red-headed McDonalds servers. They look good in neoprene. I do not. But, then again, I’ve never worn Gaultier neoprene…
Final lesson: Gaultier taught us never to let our guard down around men in tiny leather shorts. You have to be on the ball to spot this one, but luckily, I have a keen eye for burly men wearing very small shorts. I can’t help it. It’s pretty straightforward though: muscular man + tight, tiny leather shorts = keep your distance.
The Fifth Element will play in more than 400 US cinemas for two days only: Sunday, May 14, and Wednesday, May 17, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. each day