Last Wednesday I visited the international exhibition: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gautier, From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, and I’m still in awe of what I’ve seen. After exhibiting in Montreal, Dallas, San Francisco and Madrid, it is now the Kunsthal in Rotterdam that is home to the traveling exhibition from 10 February – 12 May 2013.
Gaultier is renowned for his cutting edge designs and provocative creations, and has put his distinctive mark on fashion for the past 35 years. This first international exhibition gives a stunning overview of his extensive work of art. Curated by Thierry-Maxime Loriot and in collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts we get a glimpse of Gaultier’s world through a spectacular display-production.
Gaultier sets trends instead of following them and is considered as one of the most progressive designers of our time. He thinks outside the box and goes of the beaten track, constantly looking for new boundaries and daring the status quo. He is renowned for his French navy stripe designs and the slightly provocative corsets with pointy bra cups. He has worked together with movie directors and artists like Madonna, Tina Turner and Lady Gaga, whose outfits are also included in the exhibition. Fashion photography is also part of the exposition, as his designs are extremely popular among famous photographers.
In the Kunsthal in Rotterdam his designs can be admired up close. But there is more! It’s a theatrical presentation with an exuberant character. It’s an experience. The designs are presented as a visual experience. Mannequins have virtual three-dimensional talking heads that talk, tell a story, smile, sing, and blink. You are led through six different thematic areas where light, music, and stories are told through and by the mannequins, and contribute to a feeling of being in different worlds. The six themes mark his creative development.
Today and tomorrow I will show you my favourite garments. I took so many photos, and I’m so impressed, that I couldn’t keep it concise. If you have a chance to go, I would really urge you to do so, because photos just can’t capture the experience and the intricate details of his masterpieces. Today I’m focussing on the theme areas: Urban Jungle, Metropolis, and Punk Cancan.
In Gaultier’s Urban Jungle area we are presented with a diversity of world cultures that were an inspiration for his designs. It also includes a few highlights of his haute couture collection where he used unusual and exclusive materials and techniques. Through his designs he starts an intercultural dialogue. He mixes and stirs cultures, and merges traditions and cultural elements that are otherwise separated by boundaries, languages and customs.
In his Return of Prints collection (SS 1984) he created a unique mixture of African and European styles. African Fezzes as head pieces are combined with leather mini-skirts and boubous. His Barbes collection (FW 1984) is a blend of Parisian street scenes again mixed with more ethnic and natural materials.
Gaultier explores the animal kingdom by creating hybrid bodies and reinterpretation: women morph into parrots, adorn themselves with leopard pelts or slip into studded python skins or a feather dress. One piece that really caught my eye is the leopard skin dress from the haute couture collection Russia (FW 97-98), which is a trompe-l’œil, made of glass beads with the claws made of strass, which took more than 1060 hours to create.
The designer erases boundaries with his multicultural designs wherein Bedouins and Berbes, Geishas and African marabouts, Chinese women, and flamenco dancers, chic rabbis and Russian icons are reinterpreted into contemporary designs. He has created a new style that reflects a mix of cultures and peoples that interact in urban life.
Gaultier’s Metropolis theme reflects his work for movies, concerts and theatres. As we all know he has created several costumes and designs for artists and actors. My favourite garment in this area was however a dress inspired by film negatives.
His Punk Cancan theme area shows his work that is prevalent in all his periods. It is a celebration of London punks and French haute couture combined. Gaultier accentuates differences and similarities with small details or by highlighting extraordinary techniques. I was in particular impressed by the plead skirt which is real craftsmanship.
Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow.
Would you like to visit this exhibition? www.kunsthal.nl – opening hours Tue-Sat 10-17 hrs, Sun- and holidays 11-17 hrs – info 010-4400301