DSCN4819-1A walk on the wildside, perhaps, there’s much to see and enjoy at this vastly interesting and well-curated major exhibition entitled The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Devoted to the celebrated French couturier, Jean Paul Gaultier’s fashion world. it’s choc full of his avant-garde fashion creations and cutting-edge designs. Capturing his reputation for witty and daring designs and his continuous interest in social issues and identity coupled with a beauty borne of difference, this exhibition it gives a fascinating insight into the work of one of the leading fashion designers of our time.

DSCN4811-1The exhibition highlights Gaultier’s fascination of world cultures and countercultures creating twists, transformations, transgressions and reinterpretations of fashion and his eradication of boundaries between cultures but also the sexes, redefining the idea of androgyny or subverting fashion codes.  This theatrically-staged exhibition brings together more than 180 cutting-edge couture and ready-to-wear garments including iconic costumes for film and performance from the early 1970s to the present day. The infamous conical bra and corsets Madonna wore during her 1990 Blonde Ambition World Tour are showcased alongside stage costumes designed for Kylie Minogue (see picture above: Crocheted dress with “cherub” linen appliqué; crocheted headress and mask from the Virgin Collection, Immaculata gown, Haute Couture 2007. Dress worn by Kylie Monogue in her video for “Like a Drug” in 2009).

DSCN4810-1From the start we loved the French accented English talking Jean Paul Gaultier mannequin complete with authentic facial expressions welcoming us with “I think with my collections you can travel the world. I try to show the beauty that is within all us. Enjoy the show!”

DSCN4814-1Here’s a gold sequin catsuit made for Beyoncé in 2008. There were also mermaid dresses with corset tops. Some of the dresses in this mermaid took 176 hours to make!

DSCN4816-1When Gaultier was in London in 1984 he designed Backless sailor striped knit top, pinstripe trousers from his Boy Toy collection. The annotations around the exhibition are enlightening. One learns that “A couturier with a punk soul he adopted the concept of recycling and embraced the offbeat. The idea of rebellion and the “destroy” look appealed to him.”

DSCN4820-1Of note was this man with a top hat. Feathered tartan coat form the Russian Collection Autumn/Winter 1997-1998. The mohair tartan suit in riding coat style came from the Flower Power and Skinheads collection.

DSCN4855-1Around the exhibition were Jean Paul Gautier designed perfume bottles, products  and memorabilia. Not included in this exhibition is this rare limited edition bottle of Evian water (with kind permission from the Fashion Fabulous Archive Collection).

DSCN4821-1A fine example of his craftsmanship was shown in this metallic brocade tuxedo suit with beaded net top from the Pink CanCan collection.
Walking around we saw suspended plasma TV sets showing catwalk shows and an intriguing rotating conveyor belt of model mannequins clunking around.

DSCN4822-1The exhibition tells of the first time Gaultier showed men in skirts the 30 strong Vogue staff stood up and made an exit as did St Laurent and a retinue from Marie Claire. “I was slated by the French press for designing for hairdressers and homosexuals. It took them two years to accept my statement.”

DSCN4815-1This Black velvet cassock (far left ) had an opening to reveal a religious icon made in 1997 was 126 hours to make.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, Barbican Centre, Art Gallery, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS runs until 25th August 2014. For more information and admission details see http://www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery/event-detail.asp?ID=14772

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