The world of fashion is a funny and a sometimes fickle one.
What is the toast of today, can be tomorrow’s passe.
Why do some designers shine bright like a beacon in a sea of tre`ordinaire, while others sink like the Titanic?
Well after experiencing the wave of enthusiasm that is Jean Paul Gaultier (JPG), I now understand why he is one of the most loved haute couturiers of his generation.
Months ago I was offered a kind invitation from the National Gallery Victoria (NGV) to preview “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier – From Sidewalk to the Catwalk” the exciting exhibition showcasing the world and works of JPG.
Not only was I going to view this incredible spectacle that is organised into seven themed sections, but the “enfant terrible” himself was coming to Melbourne to open the show! Impossible to describe how lucky I feel sometimes! On the morning of Thursday the 16th of October, I found myself sitting front row being swept away in a torrent of exuberance that is Jean Paul Gaultier!
To say that the room was buzzing with excitement was an understatement!
The positive energy that this man gives out is almost palpable. I, and arguably everyone else in the room, found themselves transported by the enigmatic designer as he waxed lyrical about love, life, his muses, the Eurovision song contest, oh and fashion too!
As Gaultier launched into conversation, he charmed the room to no end.
Making us laugh with anecdotes on how he loved “Strictly Ballroom”.
How he dresses a lot of contestants from the Eurovision Song Contest including this years winner Conchita Wurst. “She wins because of the voice” he says, and not the beard!”
He feels it is an honour to have his clothes modeled by his muses, including Aussie beauties Alexandra Agoston and transgender model Andreja Pejic`.
On his Australian muses he loves “their natural attitude”. “That they could make my clothes look even better, that I should dream to see people like them wearing my clothes” he says.
Professional or not, Jean Paul loves individuality in his model muses.
He doesn’t want clones on the runway and I got the impression that he wants one big party!
It was fabulous to hear him speak prior to seeing the exhibition. It made me love the clothes even more.
I entered feeling joyful, swept up in his energy.
Now onto the fashion! I think it is safe to say that most of us would associate JPG with the conical bra and the Breton stripe.
These are just two of the seven themes that you will experience throughout the journey of his career to date.
But there is more, so much more.
Let’s start at the very beginning…
“The Odyssey” introduces us to the trademark Breton stripe, interpreted as menswear, evening wear and more casual looks.
Mermaid themes and iconography feature strongly throughout.
We are then invited into “The Boudoir” to see his fascination with corsetry and lingerie, and we get to see the very first conical bra he ever made.
Designed for his teddybear “Nana” in the early 1960’s, the bra was made from newspaper crafted into the conical shapes, he would later become famous for.
Genius starts at a young age! Interestingly he would also sketch Cancan girls from the Follies Bergere when he was a boy too.
After being sprung in class, his teacher wanting to embarrass the young Jean Paul, made him wear the drawing on his back and parade around each classroom, with the idea of humiliation. This backfired in a big way! All the girls loved his designs, and all the boys wanted his drawing to oggle the female form!
To quote the man himself, “to conform is to give in”. I think it is safe to say this is one individual who would never give in.
From here we discover “Punk Cancan”, this room is ablaze with colour, texture, icons and symbols.
One of my favourite pieces is on display in this room.
A divine floor length flesh coloured gown showered with delicate black beads the size of pin heads, forming the shape of the Eiffel Tower.
Haute Couture at it’s finest.
What I love is the information given on the pieces shown.
I was amazed at the amount of hours poured into one item.
If you have ever thought “why is that so expensive, it’s just a dress”, imagine labouring over one piece for 168 hours.
That’s the equivalent of seven days work, on just one frock.
Make you think twice?
A fabulous Union Jack mohawk balances on the head of a mannequin seated next to a homage to late singer Amy Winehouse.
It is here we can see the influence of London punk to Parisian classic.
Next up is “Skin Deep”, which explores his interest with the human body, both inside and out. Tattooing and skeleton themes abound.
“Metropolis” showcases JPG collaborations with filmmakers and pop icons. If you want to experience JPG on the big screen just watch “The Fifth Element”.
The costumes are kooky, crazy and downright fabulous!
In this section he manipulates vinyl, lycra and neoprene, highly contemporary fabrics usually not seen on the catwalk, or day to day on the body.
The interesting thing is how many designers have introduced these mediums into their collections of late.
Why, Australia’s own Toni Matecevski has absolutely stunning pieces made from neoprene.
it is amazing how wearable this fabric, usually reserved for the beach, is.
It’s on to the “Urban Jungle”.
Gaultier integrates multi-ethnic influences, be it Russian, Nordic, Chinese or Bedouin to create “culture couture” which he sees as an urban jungle.
I love the detail of a skirt in this section, thousands of tiny beads sown on to the most delicate of silk and velvet.
Now after feeling like I have travelled the globe, it’s all about his “Muses”. In this Melbourne tour we are fortunate enough to have an exclusive “Australian Muses” selection, highlighting Jean Pauls’ relationships with our very own Kylie Minogue, Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman.
The latter being JPG’s first Haute Couture client. Kidman chose a dress from his “Buttons” collection spring/summer 2003, to collect her Academy award for her performance as writer Virginia Woolfe in “The Hours”.
He also has a soft spot for Antipodean models, citing Gemma Ward, Catherine McNeil, and the aforementioned Alexandra Agoston and Andreja Pejic` as his favourites.
There are so many amazing pieces in this collection, I do urge you to travel to Melbourne and experience it for yourself.
The talking mannequins are so innovative and the fashion is amazing.
Truly exceptional thanks to an “enfant terrible“. The world needs more of these!
And at the end of this exhibition, if you can leave without emptying your wallet at the Gallery store, you are a stronger soul than I!
Au Revoir xx Jo Bayley, Fashion Editor, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014
Watch a Video[videojs mp4=”http://www.thecultureconcept.com/wp-content/uploads/video/MorphingTVC_Web_240914.mp4″ poster=”http://www.thecultureconcept.com/wp-content/uploads/video/MorphingTVC_Web_240914.jpg” width=”724″ height=”407″]
Watch an Excerpt from his talk with Thierry-Maxime Loriot at the NGV
On the day Images: Jo Bayley and Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014