Ever since our chance meeting with Jean Paul Gaultier a few months ago in Brussels we have developed an interest in all things Gaultier. So when we heard about an exhibition that was dedicated to the fashion designer taking place at the Grand Palais in Paris, it made the perfect excuse for a weekend visit.
The sheer volume and range of work on display was overwhelming, and extremely impressive. From the very first dress designed by Gaultier in 1971 to iconic pieces donned by Kylie Minogue and Madonna (the cone bra!) and custom outfits made for the likes Amy Winehouse, Nanna Mouskouri and Conchita Wurst. The creativity of the works were matched by an original and engaging approach to their display which segued between history museum, fashion runway, art gallery, 3D movie, street art, rave party, boudoir and bridal showroom.
The exhibition left little wonder as to why Gaultier became known as the “enfant terrible” (the wild child) of French fashion. His style is bold and daring, and has even been described as irreverent and rebellious. His range of both women’s and menswear spans decades and styles, and the exhibition succeeded in showcasing many of these, from haute couture and streetwear to stagewear, tailored pieces and bridal gowns. His use of colour, prints and textures were a feast for the eyes and sometimes defied imagination, with some creative applications for corsetry and mesh, and playful use of animal prints and anatomically representative beading! His boundary-pushing was evident throughout the entire exhibit which evolved from room to room with no hint of repetition or borrowing from old ideas.
Tying this prolific range together was a certain je ne sais quoi that is undeniably Jean Paul Gaultier. By the time we reached the end of the exhibition a few hours later, I was completely in awe of the man and his work. So much so that I couldn’t resist picking up a few kitschy souvenirs from the gift shop on the way out…
I would never have imagined a few years ago that I would be going to a fashion exhibition, let alone enjoying it. But the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Grand Palais was truly amazing. I’m really glad I went. I actually learned a thing or two, and it made me appreciate how talented JPG is.
Together with lots of other excited exhibition-goers we made our way up the staircase of the Palais and entered a darkened room with what I thought at the time were real life models on podiums showing off JPG’s creations. I even made a comment about how tiring it would be for the models to stand there all day. When we got close enough to the models they turned out to be mannequins that had an image of a face projected onto them. It was a brilliant idea and the first time I’ve seen anything like that. The faces were so life-like, complete with blinking eyes. On the opposite side of the room was a mannequin with JPG’s face projected onto it, with a moving mouth and voice to match!
The exhibition was massive, spanning over two floors, and each room had a theme which made it feel like we travelling back in time through JPG’s creations at different periods of his career. The most impressive room for me was one with a revolving catwalk built right in the middle of it. It reminded me of a giant sushi train with mannequins dressed in the most extravagant clothes going around in a circle.
One of the rooms that came as a surprise was what I called the ‘peep show’ room, which showcased some of JPG’s more risqué creations. One display was even set up as a show behind a narrow viewing strip, and there were some very creative crotch designs on show as well! I lost count of how many pieces were on display but every one of them was like a work of art and I was completely blown away by the creativity. I have now seen fashion genius, and his name is JPG.
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk
Grand Palais, Galeries Nationales
3, avenue du Général Eisenhower, 75008 Paris