Sunday, 20 July 2014

Gaultier's Genius

I didn't want to go at first. Prejudices of endless Breton-stripes and recycled quirkiness prevented me. But then a friend convinced me, and I went. O là là! To think that I almost missed the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican!

The first surprise: the mannequins were alive. That's right. They had faces. It was very freaky and amazing and it felt like you were staring at alien-like beings, who would open their eyes and start speaking in French. I became slightly hysterical with exhilaration. 

Then there were the clothes. Of course there were lots of Breton stripes, but they was far from boring in their various materials and unlikely shapes (think back-less tops and silk for men and giant hat-cardigans for women). And the haute-couture dresses! This lace and ex-voto number made me want to step out of my Birkenstocks and kowtow to Jean-Paul. 

Lastly I fell in love with Gaultier's long history of highlighting unusual beauties. "The conventionally pretty need not apply", he wrote in a newspaper advert in the 90s when he was looking for models. He was the first to have a North-African muse, Farida Khelfa, whom he called 'la nouvelle Parisienne', and no-one took gender-bending as far as JPG, with his male muse Tanel 20 years ago and Andrej Pejic today habitually blowing up the boundaries between male and female. 

Although, of course, nothing can be more queer, more fabulous or more enviable than to have been friends with Madonna in the 90s. What's not to love? 

"The Fashionworld of Jean-Paul Gaultier" at the Barbican in London until 24 August 2014. 

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