Gaultier’s extravaganza strikes London

When an avant-garde French l’enfant terrible sends his most famous items to London, you should be there to testify that collaboration. Especially when we’re talking about one of the most creative fashion designers of the modern era: Jean Paul Gaultier     

Lately you must have noticed a certain trend for museums and galleries and fashion collaborating together and creating exhibitions to the delight of all interested parties: art lovers on one side and fashionistas on another. And for only £9 (I played the student card once more, £14.50 is the regular price) you have an extraordinary opportunity to see the creativity of one of the fashion’s most talented designers, whose work not only celebrates the great designs, but also explores the cultural and sexual differences, which transfer through all items showcased in the Barbican in London.

“The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” is a retrospective of some 165 designer’s unique garments. The show is divided into eight thematic sections: The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier, Punk Cancan, Muses, The Boudoir, Metropolis, Eurotrash, Skin Deep and Urban Jungle. Each section has a series of mannequins, of which some have faces projected onto their heads, bringing carefully their figures to life. They communicate with you in several ways, as if they want to prove their liveliness to the world. The exhibition also includes special rooms dedicated to Gaultier’s muses, including Kylie, Madonna, Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse.

Additionally, this sort of theatrically-staged exhibition brings together iconic costumes for music, film and performance made from the early 1970s to the present day. Those include the famous bra and corsets Madonna wore during her 1990 Blonde Ambition World Tour and stage costumes designed for Kylie Minogue. Also on display are famous costumes for films such as “Kika” by Pedro Almodovar and that iconic Milla Jovovich’s outfit in Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element”, which marks the time when Gaultier’s avant-garde fashion creations met the film industry.

Gaultier’s collaborations with renowned artists and photographers such as Miles Aldridge, David LaChapelle, Pierre et Gilles, Peter Lindbergh and Andy Warhol, among others, are also shown together with the footage from several catwalks, concerts, music videos, films and dance performances.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine an exhibition being interesting to watch when it includes some clothes hanging around. And more often, they’re dubbed as characterless and emotionless. However, if this was a fact to some, it will be reversed after seeing Gaultier’s dramatic showcase. It doesn’t only offer his famous designs and costumes, it also gives us a glance of fashion spirituality that might have been forgotten during the years. Hence why, in the end, “From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” is not only an exhibition of clothes. By mixing so many art forms under one big roof, this showcase is also a fashion response to the domino effect of several art movements and the globalization of fashion.

A self-thought designer, Jean Paul Gaultier was born in 1952 in a small commune called Arcueil. Before Pierre Cardin hired him as an assistant in 1970, Gaultier began his fashion career by sending sketches to then famous couture designers. He launched his first individual collection in 1976. Nowadays he’s known as l’enfant terrible, one of the biggest rebels of world’s fashion.

“The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” is at the Barbican, EC2, until August 25.


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