He is an international icon. The “bad boy” of the fashion world, who challenged the views of gender, race, size, age, and sexual orientation by mastering the style of mixing designs from edgy street and punk influences, to beauty and ugliness, elegance and vulgarity, rock and chic. He shocked the world with unconventional models…older men, large sized women, or models that were heavily pierced and tattooed. Gaultier shaped contemporary fashion for over 40 years with his innovative, avant-garde designs. A collection of his works is on tour and currently showing in Brooklyn, the only east coast venue. I heard about this exhibit from one of my fashion design teachers. She urged my class to go and see the exhibit called, “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier–From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk”, at the Brooklyn Museum. I was seriously, seriously, super excited! My classmate and I immediately hopped the subway to Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum (after the class, of course!)
I was immediately awestruck when I entered the exhibit. The collection traces Gaultier’s designs “from the streets of Paris to the worlds of cinema and pop culture”. Some of his fashion is displayed on custom-made mannequins that have interactive faces…they talk, sing, move their eyes, smile, wink and some revolve around to reveal all sides of an ensemble or to replicate the runway or catwalk. It was surreal and at times fascinating and a bit eerie too. One interesting thing I discovered from this exhibit was that his material grandmother was an inspiration in his early life and he learned a lot about women’s fashion through her. In particular, corsets and underwear. His grandmother told him a story that she would drink vinegar to make her stomach contract and then a corset would be quickly wrapped and tightened, at that moment, to make the waistline as small as possible. Gaultier went on to fashion a line of corsets, cone bras and other underwear that was to be worn as “outerwear.”
Well, I could go on forever and tell you about the famous ensemble he created for Madonna’s “Blond Ambition” tour or the recent stage costumes worn by Beyonce but you really must see this exhibit before it leaves the east coast on February 23rd, 2014. The Brooklyn Museum allowed me to take photos and I would like to show you a hint of genius of this celebrated French couturier, Jean Paul Gaultier.