I was lucky enough to catch ‘From SideWalk to CatWalk the fashion world of Jean Paul Gaultier’ exhibition at the Barbican Gallery during a recent trip to London. Photography was permitted and I wish I’d my ‘big camera’ with me. Turns out the exhibition was simply too good not to attempt to document with my iphone. Check out the beading and embroidery on this goddess dress for Kylie.
I was pretty excited to see this show, I knew I’d get a kick out of it, but it’s funny how I never really considered what a big impression Gaultier made on me. He’s THE ONE fashion designer I’ve been aware of all my life. Largely as a result of his not just shaping but participating in pop-culture. As a kid in the 90’s it was hard not to notice Madonna’s conical boobs but Jean Paul Gaultier was himself a memorable character on TV’s Euro Trash and Spitting image.
I love Gaultier’s dedication to the french Breton stripe, which has seen every permutation both male and female in his work. Seen here in perhaps the most iconic image of the man himself. His pitch perfect collaborations with Pierre et Giles where some of the first painted collaged photo-manipulation, arguably the earliest examples of ‘pop-surrealism’, I’d ever seen.
It’s hardly surprising that I would admire a designer who did a lot to popularise subcultures (like Punk / Queer / Rock etc). I also love his healthy disregard for gender or body fascism. Jean Paul Gaultier is known for working with striking muses, whose body type isn’t that of the usual stick thin model. And I adore his use of androgynous models appearing as either gender on the catwalk. He was also one of the first fashion designers to showcase models with tattoos and piercings.
Jean Paul Gaultier manages to mix often dark themes and fierceness (S&M, sexual rebellion, underwear as outerwear, and body modification) with light handed humour, strength and acceptance. His approach is very human, and I admire him tremendously for it. He really is an artist.
There were quite a few pieces that segued onto horror territory. Movie serial killers like Buffalo Bill (Silence of the Lambs) and Leather face (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) were brought to mind. I loved these anatomically inspired pieces, pictured above, that put a new spin of the idea of ‘body con’. The veins & musculature bondage is so very Clive Barker!
For me Gaultier isn’t about fashion so much as his clothes are about costume & character. Like this Joan of Arc inspired piece shown above, which captures her vulnerability and strength simultaneously. It makes sense that he has created costume designs for movies. (Two for which were art school favourites of mine- City of Lost Children and The Fifth Element). And there is making costumes in films, and there is making costume IN film.
That’s Jean Paul Gaultier! You’ve got to love that wry sense of humour.
If you’d like to read more about this exhibition there is an excellent review of the exhibition while in Rotterdam here.
You can catch the show -From Sidewalk to Catwalk- The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier – at the London Barbican Gallery until 25 Aug 2014 details here.
Do you have a favourite fashion designer? Was is it about them you love? Tell me about it in the comments….