Ever since the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition opened in Montreal I have been excited about its visit to London, not only is the French designer one of the most recognisable couturiers in fashion, but I knew that the exhibit would be very theatrical, filled with exquisite gowns as well as some of the costumes he has made for the likes of Madonna, yep the conical bra corset is on display, and Kylie Minogue.
Spanning across two floors this is a large exhibition, covering his love of Breton stripes, double denim, punk street style, dramatic red carpet worthy gowns, as well as a boudoir dedicated to the corset. There are lots of highlights in this amazing exhibition from iconic pieces such as the ‘La Mariee’ wedding gown above styled with an Indian-style feather headress-train covered in ivory silk tulle to the specially designed wigs by hair stylist Odile Gilbert like the metre-high Union Jack Mohawk and the life-like sometimes singing mannequins that take a little getting used to.
This isn’t like an ordinary fashion exhibition, it isn’t displaying works in chronicle order or even by collection, it really plays upon Gaultier’s loves – his love of stripes, his love of bejewelled gowns, his love of the Punk era in London, his love of the corset and his love of sexuality in his designs. It really works with the designer’s personality.
What I adored about this exhibit is how close you can get to the pieces, I really feel that Couture fashion is an art form, and the Barbican obviously feel the same in the way they have laid out this exhibition of JPG’s work. The detail in some of the pieces is exquisite and I love that some of the information card tells you how it took to create, for instance the camouflage-effect ruffled tulle gown that Sarah Jessica Parker wore to the MTV Awards in 2000 took over 300 hours to make.
I would definitely recommend a visit to this exhibition if you love fashion and couture, give yourself a whole afternoon though to really take in the large exhibition, and download The Barbican’s free app that acts as a multimedia guide to his career.
As well as getting an early look at the exhibition it was also amazing to hear from Jean Paul Gaultier in conversation with the exhibition curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot, hearing about how much London means to him, his inspirations, talking about how the film ‘Falbalas’ inspired him to pursue fashion, his tips for future designers, as well as his how his Gran inspired his love affair with corsets. He really was insightful and truly charming.
On his love of London, Jean Paul Gaultier said: “I feel more at home here than Paris. I am honoured to have 1/8th of English blood from my grandfather’s side. You, the roast beefs, embrace me the [French] frog – I’m proud to say that.”
Addressing future designers, Gaultier added: “I love that I get to do the work I love. If you have the passion it is worth it. If you truly love it you don’t feel like it is hard work. My first collection I did with no money, no sponsorship, I’m very proud I did it with no money. If you love it, no problem, if you just want to be known or be famous, maybe do something else.”
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’ is at the Barbican, EC2, until August 25.