Think of Madonna’s conical bra or punky male skirts of the 90s, and both bear the characteristic stamp of Jean Paul Gaultier’s aesthetic: playful fashion with a sense of humour. It’s why “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” is the exhibition to catch in London right now.
Story by Rumnique Nannar
The Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective is on at the Barbican Art Gallery in London until August 25, 2014. If you’re a pop culture, Madonna or fashion fan, it’s an exhibition you can’t miss.
Gaultier was initially hesitant to showcase his work in the exhibition: “I must be honest and say I didn’t want to do an exhibition at first. I thought that exhibitions were for those who are dead. And I am very much alive.”
Despite his reservations, the show is a complete fun fair, complete with a carousel of moving pieces from his Parisienne and French Cancan collection, talking mannequins with faces projected on them, and three rooms devoted to his many muses, from Amy Winehouse to Boy George. The exhibition provides a unique experience; Gaultier’s face on a kilt-clad mannequin welcomes visitors into the gallery, which is both informative and a tad disconcerting as he walks you through his influences and collections.
What We Loved: The exhibition unveils many of the themes in Gaultier’s career, starting with the Breton stripes and nautical style that’s so iconic of his early work in the first gallery. The rooms dedicated to his muses are stunning, because it champions Gaultier’s body positivity on the runway, including Beth Ditto’s tulle dress from his 2011 Spring collection and Crystal Renn’s flower-lined gown from his 2006 pret-a-porter line.
The Punky Cancan room is a fitting tribute to the London punk style that Gaultier drew on for his collections in the 90s, from slashed leather jackets to enormous Union-Jack mohawks.
What We Didn’t Love: Sometimes, the elaborately designed sets overwhelmed the artistry of the pieces in the upstairs galleries featuring his boudoir and bondage influences. I would loved to have seen more of his work in film and music videos, as Gaultier has created a distinctive style that marries the high couture – low culture divide.
Who Should Go? YOU! You needn’t be a fashion-lover to enjoy some of these outlandishly fun outfits, since Gaultier’s take on fashion is always worn with a cheeky wink.
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is on until August 25, 2014 at Barbican Centre on Silk Street, London UK.