“Our role as designers is to feel what is happening in society at the moment and interpret it through fashion,” explains Jean Paul Gaultier, who’s in New York for the opening of his exhibition, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From Sidewalk to Couture, opening at the Brooklyn Museum next week (watch the preview video by Stephane Sednaoui here).
“I have always wanted to show that there is not one beauty but different kinds of beauty. We can find beauty where we least expect it,” he adds.
Brooklyn—the borough where gritty and avant-garde mingle in a joyfully creative mood and a celebration of diversity and countercultures—is the perfect spot for the touring exhibition’s East Coast stop (It has traveled to Madrid, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Dallas and is next going to the Barbican in London). After all, it was Gaultier himself who launched the tattoo and piercing trend that has now become mainstream; he was inspired by the styles of the Hasids after visiting New York for his Rabins Chics collection in 1993-1994 and has created wild mixes of traditional costumes from around the world.
Gaultier was always a rebel visionary and the exhibition, curated by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Thierry Maxime Loriot (a former Gaultier model), mirrors his incisive and playful oeuvre with a cutting edge scenography. Visitors are greeted by a mannequin of Gaultier in his signature marinière, whose animated face is uncannily expressive – an interactive feature created by the Ubu Collective. Throughout the exhibition mannequins chatter, whisper and laugh, representing Gaultier muses such as Melissa Auf der Maur, the bassist for Smashing Pumpkins, and Ève Salvail, the androgynous Amazon with the shaved head. Mannequins revolve, revealing outfits from all angles; some move on a mechanic catwalk, as if floating in their beautifully ornate dresses. The dramatic effect is complete with Odile Gilbert’s sculptural headdresses and wigs – elaborate crowns adorning the mannequins’ heads or spectacular Mohawks such as the one still sported by Gaultier’s friend and muse, Tanel Betrossiantz.
Throughout his life Gaultier has worked with other visionaries; the exhibition documents his collaborations with choreographers (Regine Chopinot), filmmakers (Luc Besson, Peter Greenaway, Pedro Amodovar), photographers (Richard Avedon, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol) — and of course Madonna, whose exaggerated conical corsets transformed her into an eternal sex symbol. The exhibition will also feature, for the first time, stage costumes worn by Beyoncé.