The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier at the Barbican is on until 25th August 2014.
The Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican is “A celebration of the designer’s daring inventiveness… from the streets of Paris to the DIY aesthetic of punk or fantasies of science fiction.”
We were initially overwhelmed by the scale of the show and the amount of work on display, something you would perhaps expect to see at the V&A. This extensive exhibition was broken down into manageable sections including The Odyssey, Punk Cancan, Muses and The Boudoir. In quotation marks are the notes I took from the information that was alongside the garments. This blog post is a collection of my favourite bits from it…
“…As a teenager thinking about his future career and developing his own design vocabulary, he made sketches of two collections a year, taking his inspiration from fashion magazines, films from the interwar period and 1960s television programmes [that he watched on his maternal grandmother’s television].
“…Fascinated by unusual Parisiennes, Gaultier favoured unconventional types of beauty: “As a child, my attention was always drawn to those women who didn’t look like everyone else…
“…Gaultier is a self-taught designer and discovered the tradition and skills of haute couture by working at the fashion houses of Pierre Cardin and Jean Patou between 1970 – 74. He set up his own company in 1976, starting with a women’s prêt-à-porter line, and added a menswear collection in 1983. In 1997, Gaultier opened his own couture house showing two collections a year. From 2004 until 2010… he also produced two collections a year for Hermès.”
“Regulated by the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, haute couture is shown exclusively in Paris. Couture houses must comply with very specific requirements regarding how garments are made, presented and sold… Everything involved in a couture garment must be accomplished entirely by hand… Each element is undertaken by a specialist in the relevant craft, including tailors, embroiderers and lace-makers among many others.”
Sailors uniforms, mermaids, the Madonna
Sources of nautical inspiration include Coco Chanel, Popeye and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1982 film Querelle.
Recycling, punks, Vivienne Westwood
“French film stars and performers are his icons. He puts new twists on their classic accoutrements – beret, trench coat, cigarette holder and baguette.
“As a child, he listened to his grandmother tell stories about life during the war. Women were already recycling then, to cope with the prevailing shortages: men’s suits were altered for women; trousers became skirts… Sumptuous linings turn military garments into formal attire, while evening gowns spring from camouflage-print fabrics.
“Travelling to London in the early 1970s, Gaultier saw for the first time the styles adopted by punks, and was profoundly influenced by their anti-materialist principles and non-conformist fashion. He found inspiration and new materials in the energy of London’s streets, from Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s SEX boutique on the King’s Road to David Bowie… “The raw side of punk, with its Mohawk haircuts, almost tribal makeup, allusions to sex, torn fishnet stockings, black, kilts, bondage straps, mixing of genders and materials – all that spoke to me, suiting me much better than some of the dried-up conventions of couture.”
“Non-conformist designer seeks unusual models – the conventionally pretty need not apply.” – Advert placed by Jean Paul Gaultier in French daily newspaper.
“Many of his early muses have remained important influences, including Farida Khelfa, who became the first top model with a North African background after starting her career with Gaultier in 1979.
“In opposition to the fashion catwalk and advertising status quo of using tall, blonde and ethereal looking models, Gaultier deliberately selects models of all races, ages, genders and body shapes, including choosing those who were bald, tattooed, and pierced, decades before it became mainstream. He is drawn to difference: “Perfection is relative and beauty is subjective. I wanted to make imperfection admirable… Sometimes a different energy and bearing, or an unusual type of body catches my eye and makes me want to invent something. With both haute couture and pret-a-porter, I’ve always tried to create collections that could speak to all kinds of men and women of different ages and styles.”
“[Gaultier] has cast lead singer of the American group Gossip, Beth Ditto, on his catwalk, and has been particularly drawn to British models including Naomi Campbell, Lily Cole, Karen Elson and Erin O’Connor.”
“You are a true designer when people recognise your work without even looking at the label. This is the case for Jean Paul Gaultier.” – Pierre Cardin.
“Reworking the early 20th-century corsets… Gaultier has developed underwear as outerwear and created new classics such as the cone bra. Fort he women who wear them, his corset dresses symbolise both power and sensuality.
“…He has also given men the opportunity to don corsets once again, as did the dandies and English military men of the 19th century, who wore them to improve their strength and endurance.
“Many well-known artists and performers have worn different iteratios of his corsets with concentrically top-stitched bra cups, including Grace Jones, Kylie Minogue, Cindy Sherman, Dita Von Teese, and perhaps most famously, Madonna during her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour.”