Braving the -9 degree temperature in order to jump a train from Manhattan to Brooklyn was definitely worth the trip. The cold and the long travel didn’t matter when we saw the entrance of the museum. I wasn’t quite sure why Jean Paul Gaultier decided to present his retrospective exhibition out of town, but once I stepped inside, I totally got it. I have never seen an exhibition as big as this one. Even Valentino at Somerset House and Louboutin at the Design museum weren’t nearly as spectacular.
Showcasing fashion as a piece of art that could be worn as well as observed, the exhibition features 130 haute couture and pret-a-porter ensembles accompanied by audiovisual materials, sketches, early designs and photographs, all of which testify the breathtaking craftsmanship of Gaultier’s creations.
Walking into the exhibition, the first thing that catches your attention is a massive display of more than 20 mannequins with interactive faces created by technologically ingenious high-definition audiovisual projections. They look so real, that you actually feel as if you are being observed. When you look at them, they look at you, creating a weird atmosphere of impossible romance. The most beautiful ones were the haute couture designs with the navy straps, Gaultier’s unique sign of identity. Just in the middle of the crew, a mannequin starts talking, it is Gaultier himself, welcoming you to the exhibition in English with a touch of a French accent. A dozen celebrities, including Gaultier himself, model Ève Salvail, and bass player Melissa Auf der Maur, have lent their faces and voices to this project.
There are seven thematic sections and his trademark of sailors, mermaids and religious iconography set the tone. “The Boudoir” showcases Gaultier’s fascination for lingerie and corsetry though the years. Original pictures from Madonna’s music tours and sketches with designs made for the singer’s figure are iconic must see pieces. “Muses” shows how the couturier created a new ideal of beauty, beyond the established codes of fashion and society, celebrating difference by erasing all boundaries of body, size, skin, colour, age, religion and sexuality.
“Punk Cancan” features his designs from Parisian classicism to London’s punk. Don’t miss the chiffon camouflage dress that required 312 hours to make, worn by Sarah Jessica Parker at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards. “Skin Deep” showcases how the designer creates clothing that becomes a second skin, giving the illusion of nudity. “Metropolis” sees Gaultier’s collaborations with filmmakers and choreographers like Regine Chopinot and pop icons such as Lady Gaga and Nirvana. In this section there is also a tribute to the late Amy Winehouse, from the spring summer collection of 2012. Finally, “Urban Jungle” is where cultures from around the world come together to create an integrated look into haute couture.
Gaultier differentiates himself for his cutting-edge style inspired by cultures and countercultures. In the exhibition, music, cinematography and photography come together in a fashion environment celebrating the designer and his ability to inspire , from street fashion to the highs of haute couture, showing a deep understanding of the issues of today’s multicultural society.
If you couldn’t make it to New York, the itinerant exhibition will soon be coming to London, where the Barbican Museum will host it from April 9th to August 17th. Stay tuned to get your tickets because delving into the world of Jean Paul Gautlier is a once in a lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed.
By Laura Roig Vericat