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Monday, January 20, 2014

Jean Paul Gaultier: Sidewalk to the Catwalk

gaultier virgins
Disturbing, provocative, delightful.  All of the above and more was found at the Brooklyn Museum's The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk exhibit.

Gaultier created some of the most iconic looks of my generation.  Everyone recognizes the cone cup corsets of Madonna's Blond Ambition Tour .  Fashion fans have marveled at the varied inspirations and theatrical runway shows over the years.

The exhibit itself was not your typical, institutional retrospective you would expect from a museum.  Upon entering the first gallery, you are startled when you gaze at the mannequins and find them blinking or even glaring back at you.  The "Virgins" collection had mannequins singing, wearing dresses inspired by religious icons.  The mermaids on the other side were adorned in mother of pearl and golden filigree.
fashion corset
The designer's mastery of intimate and apparel were displayed in a long dark corridor on spinning dress forms so you could see the painstaking details that went into each and every piece.

The gallery of punk style had elaborate creations in denim and tartan.  A moving runway displayed cheeky looks like a cancan dress that was painted with legs on the interior, but looked like a more conservative white ruffled dress on the outside.  The punk mannequins could make you jump, whispering that they were "behind you" as you observed other parts of the room.

Gorgeous looks worn by the likes of singers like Beth Ditto were part of a gallery that showed the diversity of age, body shape and ethnicity that the designer liked to portray on the runway.  Another room showed the global influences of design that made their way to his shows.  One of the most impressive looks in this room was the Asian-inspired look of his first collection that he put together with straw placements from the local market before he had the money to fund more expensive fabrics.

While Jean Paul Gaultier clearly took craftmanship and design very seriously, his own persona was another matter.  A talking mannequin of himself hosted the exhibit and the attitude of his catwalks always showed a sense of fun.  Photographs or interviews with him always portrayed a winking sensibility that I enjoyed.

This exhibit is a must-see and one of my favorites in recent years.  Get yourself to the Brooklyn Museum before February 23, 2014!
gaultier exhibit
exhibit photographs by Mariana Leung

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