Finally got to check out The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Anyone who hasn’t been should really make the trip out to Brooklyn. His playful and sexy, fantastical designs inspired by the streets of Paris are definitely worth pining over for an hour or two even if you wouldn’t be caught dead in a coned bra.
Pictured above are a few of the many looks that caught my eye.
Guess who went to the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DeYoung Museum?
It was great and had many more pieces than the YSL exhibit. I forgot that it was free day at the museum, so the place was packed. I went with a dear friend of mine and we had a fantastic time, despite the crowds.
Sorry for the poor quality but all I had was my iPhone and a lot of people jostling me and low light–so, there you go.
The news that JPG was shutting down his ready-to-wear business, with his last collection scheduled to be shown on Saturday in Paris, prompted recollections from industry notables who have long considered Mr. Gaultier one of the most original people in fashion — both on and off the runway.
Thierry-Maxime Loriot, curator, “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk”: “He pushed barriers of fashion and society and showed an open vision of society. Everybody was always welcome on his catwalk — whatever age, body shape, skin color, gender … there’s something very humanist in his approach to fashion. For me, that’s the most important thing.”
Franca Sozzani, editor of Italian Vogue: “The ’80s and the ’90s were really his years. When we were going to Paris, Jean Paul Gaultier was the one you go to see.”
Tim Blanks, editor at large, Style.com: “He was absolutely peerless for the longest time in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Each show was an absolutely remarkable hybrid of fashion and social comment. The sense of event that surrounded fashion was very different from the sense of event that surrounds it now. It was much more like a cult band inspiring this incredible devotion. The crowd would be full of drag queens and cult rock stars and things.”
Marian McEvoy, European fashion editor at Women’s Wear Daily, 1975-90: “When he first began, like so many designers, he wasn’t rolling in the big bucks, so he would give out favors. His Christmas presents were really unusual. One of his first collections, he gave all the people in the audience very large, metallic bracelets that were actually tin cans. It was so funny. We were all wearing this tin can for about a week.”
Ken Downing, fashion director of Neiman Marcus: “The theater and the drama always made those Gaultier shows. I liked the show where there were bales of hay everywhere. And the models came out with hay in their hair. And as they were traversing through all of it, the dust from the hay was kicking up and we were all getting a little weepy and not because the fashion was so moving but because our eyes were filling with dust from the straw. It was one of those moments.”
Simon Doonan, creative ambassador, Barneys New York: “If you look at his old shows, they were often about 45 minutes long, which today is unthinkable. You have eight minutes of choreographed efficiency today. People would be terrified to have a show run for that length. I can still remember going to Gaultier shows, with incense and clanging bells and people laughing. It was a completely different atmosphere to the shows today, which are very militaristic.”
Michelle Stein, president, Aeffe USA (Aeffe held the Jean Paul Gaultier license from 1994 to 2012): “I was always just breathless at the end of every show and hoping that everyone in the audience was as excited as I was, which was not always the case. When People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) stormed the runway [at the fall 2003 show], the people at Gaultier were prepared! The security was out with these massive fur coats, and they jumped up on the runway and wrapped these people in the fur coats and off the runway! Oh my god, it was crazy.”
Thierry-Maxime Loriot: “When you see Gaultier clothes, you don’t even need to look at the label. You just recognize it immediately.”
Marian McEvoy: “There was a real rapport with the streets, right from the very beginning. I think that’s where he gleaned a lot of his ideas, straight from the street, not an idea or a travelogue.”
Simon Doonan: “Years ago, Madonna loaned us at Barneys the pointy-bra, gold ‘Blonde Ambition’ corset. It was the most beautifully made thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It took us hours to unlace it and get it onto a mannequin. It was a piece of exquisite craftsmanship.”
Linda Fargo, senior vice president, Bergdorf Goodman: “That cone bra? That’s something he started as a boy. There was a teddy bear that he had and he actually made, out of paper or something, on his teddy bear. What was he, 5 or 6? And he was already dreaming about a cone bra on a bear.”
Marian McEvoy: “He had a wonderful sense of playfulness, humor was a big part of his look and his style. But he was clearly a very solid fashion designer. It was highly unusual. I guess if you think that his contemporaries at that moment were people like Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana — let’s just say they took themselves much more seriously.”
Coco Rocha, model: “He was one who treated models like human beings. I know that sounds ridiculous, but sometimes you go to castings and they don’t know your name, you’re just there to wear the clothes. Gaultier, you will go to his atelier and he has food and he wants to sit down with you. He even took me out to his rooftop to watch the sunset. He takes time with his models and let’s them know what the whole show is about. We feel more creative. You want to do good for him. You don’t want to just walk down the runway.”
Hamish Bowles, Vogue’s international editor at large, who as the 25-year-old fashion director of Harpers & Queen, walked the runway in Mr. Gaultier’s fall 1989 show, after a chance encounter a few months earlier in Riccione, Italy, where the collection was being produced: “Jean Paul had a party bus for his team and one night we went from mega disco to mega disco, which was cheesy fun. Very late, that tipsy night, his general factotum and press guy Lionel Vermeil said to me, ‘Jean Paul has been thinking that he’d really like you to be in his next women’s show … would you consider it?’ Naturally, I was thrilled beyond and immediately said, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ at which point Lionel added, ‘The show is inspired by ’20s Weimar lesbians.’
“I hadn’t told a soul and there was only a very slow realization in the audience that it was me — largely I think because on my first exit I really camped it up doing exaggerated ‘Paris is Burning’ runway moves (which happily have been eviscerated from the only YouTube video I could find), whilst everyone else had got the dour Weimar brief and came stomping out looking surly. So there was no mistaking me. Before I went out a second time, Jean Paul instructed me to tone down the moves, which was just as well as the pants under my kilt had been taken out too much after the fitting and started sliding down my then snake-like hips in mid shimmy — so my statelier gait helped avoid an international incident as one hand on hip was effectively keeping the pants up. I don’t think anyone could believe that I’d actually done it but it was all part of JPG’s revolutionary gender-bender antics.”
Michelle Stein: “The whole industry has changed so much since Jean Paul began, but he’s just one of the best designers who have ever lived. It’s so sad to think that the general public will no longer have the opportunity to see the ready to wear, nor to wear it. I still go into my closet and my favorite pieces in my wardrobe are Jean Paul Gaultier.”
Thierry-Maxime Loriot: “When you see who was assisting him, from Martin Margiela to Nicolas Ghesquière to Peter Dundas, who have all been Gaultier’s assistants, you really see in their work how they’ve been influenced by him. He left a big print in the fashion industry.”
Linda Fargo: “For me, Jean Paul Gaultier was part of my awakening in fashion. There’s a handful of designers that did that for me.”
Coco Rocha: Gaultier, along with Steven Meisel, made my career. Meisel was the one who found me, scouted me, made me. Gaultier? He made me Irish dance down the runway in 2007. Every day I’m reminded by someone who says, ‘You were the girl that Irish-danced down Gaultier’s runway.’ People remember that.”
Simon Doonan: “Often fashion today feels a little bit abstract. You look at these very expensive, complicated collections that are shown by high-level designers and you think, ‘I wonder who’s going to wear that.’ With Gaultier, the models were wearing it, the editors were wearing it, and the general public was wearing it — or wearing some version of it that was mass-produced.”
Tim Blanks: “I think there was a sense for a very long time that JPG would be the heir to Yves Saint Laurent, that he was the standard-bearer for French fashion at its purest. It was so obvious that Gaultier should be the designer at Dior. Galliano got the job and I remember people were quite surprised by that.”
Stefano Tonchi, editor of W magazine: “I think he invented streetwear in prêt-à-porter. He brought it there. Now, really, it doesn’t quite exist anymore. Prêt-à-porter is couture. The prices, the look, the things that you see at prêt-à-porter collections are really couture. It’s like beautiful couture pieces made in multiples.”
Anna Wintour, editor in chief of American Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast: “He’s always been a showman. I do think that recently his whole emphasis has been much more on the couture and having fun with the couture. I don’t think we’re going to lose that Gaultier moment.”