Apr 6, 2015

Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibit in Paris showcases designer's avant-garde creations, inspirations

Jean-Paul Gaultier-"I tried to display them by theme, themes that are important to me like working on skin, tattoos, piercing etc. androgenicity, the strong woman, the sexy woman as well, corsets, ethnicities, different ethnicities. With all this I tried to put them together," he said.

Paris' first ever exhibition devoted to fashion's "enfant terrible" Jean-Paul Gaultier opens its doors on Wednesday, showcasing the French couturier's avant-garde creations as well as his childhood inspirations.

The Grand Palais Museum will display more than 300 pieces, made up of haute couture and ready-to-wear designs from between 1976 and the present day, accompanied by videos and pictures.

"The Fashion World of Jean-Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk", which runs to Aug. 3, also has mannequins with animated faces winking at passers-by.

Gaultier, who designed the corset and cone bra that Madonna wore for her 1990 world tour, said the exhibition was not a retrospective but a creation in itself.

Another particular aspect of this production are the personal elements of Gaultier's childhood and adolescence that represent the roots of his inspirations and innovations.

During a news conference held on Monday (March 30), the eclectic designer insisted upon the strong bond he had with his grandmother and how she often played a role in his creativity.

"I was lucky that my grandmother was different, that she had black feathers, an extraordinary corset and also she gave beauty advice to her clients. Meaning, I was there and I witnessed this, I was probably 9 or 10 years old and I would draw them before and after, in the way that they appeared to me, which used to really amuse them. And I would also hear my grandmother saying to them, you have to make nice little dishes for your husbands and maybe you can also change your clothes, style your hair differently, make a small change. So little by little, without realizing it, I grasped the importance of clothing," he said.

Gaultier's fashion house opened in the early 1980s but announced last year in September that it will no longer produce men's and women's ready-to-wear.

The brand, owned by Spanish perfumer Puig, will now on focus on haute couture, perfume, and collaborations within the industry.

"Now it has changed [the world of fashion], there are enormous groups and stuff, it's the power of power, much more of that, a lot of marketing, many more guidelines to follow which I was not used to. I was extremely lucky to be free in what I was doing and set my own limits, my own boundaries. Nowadays if one must go through filter after filter, well then I am too old for that," Gaultier said.

As well as some of his most emblematic artistic collaborations with filmmakers, dancers, models and international pop stars, numerous objects and archival documents are also on display to the public for the first time. An array of sketches, stage costumes, footage from films, fashion shows and concerts, video clips, dance performances and TV shows retrace the diversity of his career.

The exhibition first began in 2011 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts under the direction of Nathalie Bondil and Thierry-Maxime Loriot.

Since then, the exhibition has gone around the world, opening its doors in nine different cities including Dallas, Madrid, Rotterdam and Melbourne.

The show at the Grand Palais is the tenth stop of the exhibit with installations specially designed for Paris as a reminder of the impact the "enfant terrible," as Gaultier was called by the press, has had in the fashion world.

The curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Thierry-Maxime Loriot, said how important it was for this exhibition to reflect the return of the designer to his roots.

"Paris is the tenth venue of this incredible tour after a million and a half visitors. So for Paris it was important that Mr. Gaultier felt at home, it's like the return of the "enfant terrible" in Paris," he said.

Apart from his technical virtuosity based on his great skill in tailoring, his wide imagination and historic partnerships with other artists, Gaultier offers an open-minded vision of society—a crazy, impertinent world in which people are free to be themselves. There is something truly generous in Gaultier's world and a powerful social message delivered in a light, witty way, Loriot said.

"It's really important the strong social message in this exhibition. So you can see it through the exhibition with the mannequins, that speak, that reflect his universe but also the different skin tones and different body shapes throughout the exhibition," he added.

As the visitor walks through the eight different themes of the designer's universe, the animated faces of the mannequins follow him with their eyes, sometimes even winking at him.