I have been so lucky recently and am already to tick off the fifth fashion event attended from my 2014 Fashionista Calendar. I saw the Paul Smith exhibit at the Design Museum, and the Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy pieces at the Isabella Blow show at Somerset House, London Fashion Weekend, the London Jewellery Now and Anatamy of a Suit mini-exhibits at the Museum of London and now, at the Barbican Centre, the much publicised Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier.
If you haven’t been to the Barbican Centre before it is a dance, music and art space connected to the housing development right in the centre of London, spread over 5 floor including bars, restaurants, and cinemas. Very easy to get to, and so much to see and do there.
If you haven’t heard of Jean Paul Gaultier he is a French haute couture and pret-a-porter designer, creative director of Hermes from 2003-2010, the UK will know him for his appearances on 1990’s off-the-wall show Eurotrash, his sailor boy cologne bottle, Madonna bodice perfume bottle. His iconic creations are instantly recognisable as his: the le male sailor with this Breton striped top, the silk cone breasted bodices, drawing influences from India, Hasidic Judaism and UK Punk culture. Gaultier was and is one of the most important fashion designers alive.
First thing to note: THIS EXHIBITION IS HUGE!
I cannot stress this enough, this was a mammoth exhibit, sprawling over 2 floors with dozens upon dozens of mannequins displayed in interesting and unique ways displaying the styles created by JPG. So what do you see? I do not know where to begin.
I saw his classic sailor stripe, along with sequins and shells used to create sailor-meets-mermaid costumes in a wonderful, blue lit area where the mannequins had actor’s faces projected onto them, so they would talk and sing and look at you as you walked by. There is a mannequin of JPG, in sailor stripe and kilt, introducing the show.
There are rooms of corsets, and bodices made of lace and silk. There is a moving catwalk of designs that are infinitely wearable, mixed with the sublime, and the so out there, so avant-garde, that they could only appear at haute couture shows. The houndstooth onesie was amazing, but I couldn’t see myself wearing it as I pulled into Liverpool Street on the way to work.
The sheer volume of the body of work was too much to take in with one pass, and maybe two wouldn’t give you enough of an appreciation of just how important JPG is as a designer. Clothing made for movies fills one mirrored room, with the costumes from The Fifth Element mixed with his other contributions. Denim punks share a space with Cool Britannia mannequins with Union Jack mohawks and sequined British dresses.
Costumes worn by Grace Jones, Kylie Minogue, Milla Jovovic, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss were twinned with photos of the celebrities and paintings by JPG describing them as “his inspiration,” I seriously couldn’t stop taking photos, and you are allowed (as long as you don’t use your flash) which was something I could not do at Somerset House for the Isabella Blow exhibit. And I was so glad I did, as there was just so much to see from perfume bottles, to clutches, bodysuits of the organs and arteries, feather wedding dresses, and the famous Madonna bodices with the pointed bra.
I love his clothing, and especially the tartan punks, the feather dresses and the sailor themes. A couple of statement necklaces caught my eye, although the soup can lid and brillo pad ensemble is perhaps a statement I would not make.
If you are a fan of JPG or are studying fashion you MUST attend this exhibition.I cannot recommend it highly enough to justify just how huge and how important this exhibition is. It is running until the 25th August, you can book in advance or buy tickets at the door. Details are here. I am in half a mind to go back myself.