Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

We flirted with flying to Montreal in 2011 when we heard the Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective exhibition was there; we toyed with visiting Dallas in 2012 when it moved there, we schemed to get to San Francisco when we learned it was in California. We sighed great sighs of disappointment when we did none of these and thought all was lost. So you can imagine our frenzied delight when we heard in July that the fabled Gaultier show was coming to Brooklyn! It was as if we'd each found a thousand dollar bill on the sidewalk!

We already knew our friend Shelley, aka The Forest City Fashionista, was coming to see the October Manhattan Vintage Show, so when she asked what else she should see here, we told her to send her press credentials to The Brooklyn Museum for the press preview.  What a wonderful time we had!

And - la pièce de résistance - we met the master himself! (Many thanks to Petros Poulopoulos and Primary Fashion magazine for this photo.)

For the closest experience to actually being there, check out JPG's absolutely FABULOUS video for the Brooklyn Museum Show:

(We shrank it so it would fit our screen, but if you'd like to see it again full size for more impact, click here.)

The trio most responsible for the success of the exhibition itself are Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the designer himself, and Thierry-Maxime Loriot, the curator of the Gaultier exhibition.

The highlights of the press event with Gaultier and Loriot were the comments by the designer himself and his questions and answer session with the audience.

Our favorite question came from Margurita Schalyarevsky for Russian Bazaar who asked why designers don't make clothing for older women. We met her and her charming husband after the press conference ended.

In response to Margurita's question, Mr. Gaultier cited the fact that he does focus on men and women of all ages, shapes and sizes. His clothing isn't just worn by thin models. His number one example, both at the exhibition and at the gala party later that evening, is singer Beth Ditto. Here she is with the designer on the runway in March 2011 wearing his Rock'N'Romantic collection (Spring/Summer 2011).   His second example might be that 55-year old performer who still wears his clothes on stage and off -- Madonna! Gaultier noted that Brooklyn, with all its diversity and growing counter-culture, was the perfect New York location for the show. (He spoke entirely off the cuff in English, by the way - no prepared notes - and must have spoken for a good fifteen minutes. Bravo!)

The exhibition was grouped thematically, rather than chronologically. This dress was in the midst of a host of other stripe-themed clothes. Just love the feathers that start sparsely and work their way into a huge feather-duster effect. Had Gaultier seen Ginger Rogers' feather dress in Top Hat when he designed this?

Of COURSE we loved this. Those of you who are tempted to think we're showing you a hat, look again. This is a jacket with a huge collar.

This ingenious black and white jersey bodysuit features long panels that form a dramatic ribbon-like train. Worn over jersey sailor pants, it was part of Ze Parisienne collection, a Bateau-Lavoir ensemble.

The text for this gown reads: "Latex bodysuit with gilded scales; shell cone bra; long, sequin-embroidered latex skirt; coral-motif rubber crutches."  We present this as a tongue-in-cheek reference to Valerie's still-not-quite-ready-for-prime-time ankle.

That's a cage-like train you see at the back of this dress, lifted as if held by attendants. Pay special attention to the marvelous hat (we did!), a flat wire frame wound with fabric in a turban-like manner.

This dress is a grand mass of ribbons. The breast cups and panniers at the hips are also constructed of yards and yards of ribbon for a wonderfully textured effect.

Way back in March we were interviewed by Kemberly Richardson for ABC News, and blogged about it in April, when it ran on the 5 o'clock news. Here she is again interviewing Mr. Gaultier. He was extremely generous with his time and very animated as he described his work. If you look carefully, you can see that the walls above and below the mannequins are upholstered in pale quilted satin.

We got to chat with Kemberly after her interview and catch up on what she's been up to since we last saw her. She was wearing a terrific pair of Betsey Johnson metallic heels.  This woman obviously loves her job.  When she said the interview would be broadcast on WABC-TV at 4 PM, Jean was lucky enough to get her husband to record it for her.  At the very end of the shot, the camera pans to the crowd in the background, shows Valerie and the screen goes dark.

Houndstooth hat, cigarette holder, glasses, face mask, jumpsuit, belt, gloves, pocketbook, umbrella and shoes. Hilarious! Wonderful!

From the 2001 Paris and Its Muses collection. To say this is made of leather is an understatement.   Keep your eye on the eye in the center for a moment...

Here is a close-up of that eye. The face seems to have been taken straight from newsprint benday dots and reinterpreted for leather. Each strip is individually cut (by laser??) and sewn down.

We had the privilege of meeting Tanel Bedroissiantz, Gaultier muse and model, who has walked in 80 Gaultier shows since the mid-1980s. He was a total pussycat who introduced us to his boyfriend and chatted about his adventures in Brooklyn. Here he is with Jean...

And here he is in his best known photograph.

Seated one row up to our right at the press conference were two individuals whose hats we admired. When they turned their heads, we were thrilled to see that they were none other than artist Colette and journalist David Noh. We got to chat at the refreshment area after the formal remarks and photo ops ended.

We have ruthlessly beheaded this mannequin to give you a closer look at her amazing "film-covered corset". The label reads "Satin-edged, acetate film-covered corset with articulated shoulders and hips". The gown is called "Etoiles et toiles", which sounds like the same word twice in French, but means 'stars and cloth', showing the designer's wry sense of humor and word play. We've left this photo in its original size so you can also get a clear look at the fabulous bracelets.

Here is a close-up of the film pattern on the skirt. A few of the labels, in addition to listing essentials like dates and materials, also list "fabrication time". For this piece, the fabrication time was 125 hours. We're assuming this means the time spent putting the prepared parts together, and excludes the amount of time for drawings, pattern-making, fabric printing and cutting, etc.  The amount of work is mind-boggling.

This elaborate piece is described as long silk satin and lace "cage", sequined chiffon and lace sheath. What it doesn't say is that black lace is wrapped around yards of satin tubing. As with the previous gown, fabrication time is also listed for this confection. At 295 hours, it took more than twice as long as Etoiles et Toiles. (This photo can also be enlarged for detail.)

Shelley and Valerie vogue for the camera.

The curator of the exhibition was the best advertisement for Gaultier's work. His leather flight suit was as soft as a baby's bottom. An ex-model, Thierry-Maxime knew how to work it.  He is standing in front of Miles Aldridge's "Immaculate No. 3."

This dramatic pink shirred velvet strapless gown with cone bra cups is from the "Barbes" collection (Fall/Winter 1984-1985). You saw it above in sumptuous blue worn by Tanel Bedrossiantz in the 1982 Paolo Roversi photograph - the iconic image for the exhibition. And that's us posing next to it in the opening shots of this post.

Shelley got some one-on-one time with Thierry-Maxime.

This 3-D Patent Leather Cage Corset was worn by Madonna in her MDNA World Tour in 2012 when she was 54 years old.  A "woman of a certain age" herself, Madge still has what it takes!

Photographer Rose Hartman was at the show and in the audience at the press conference, wearing her eponymous signature flower.  In honor of the exhibit, the IFs both wore items from Gaultier's Soleil collection. The print of Valerie's dress is taken from an antique Japanese banner featuring a samurai on horseback. The very long sleeves were shortened and the excess used to cap her hat with. (Look quickly -- no moon boot!  It was a fleeting occasion. Later that weekend, she was back in her own version of "das boot". Alas, she just can't seem to "shake shake shake her bootie"!)

Jean and Shelley smile for the camera. Jean's Soleil skirt with Japanese imagery and a giant eagle is so long, she had to fashion tiny elastic suspenders to hold it up under her bra.  (If she hemmed it, it would have cut off half of the eagle.)

The designer was so approachable and friendly, he even posed for us in front of his portrait. We love how our photo captures a little of his impish nature.


A punk mannequin gives her opinion:

A mannequin in Gaultier's image tells part of a dark tale:

Here's Gaultier himself. The mannequin is great, but the real one is animated all over. No important remarks in this random clip. Just vibrant life and joy. Beside him is Thierry-Maxime Loriot, the show's beyond-fabulous curator.


  1. Awesome post ladies! Thank you for including the photo of me with my new crush ;) You really captured the spirit of the event and the delight of the exhibit. I will link to your post when I get mine up later today.

  2. I adore JPG. His work, his creativity, his humor, everything!! I saw the exhibit in San Francisco, and I must say, it was life changing event (or at least, a catalyst for my art). So cool you got to meet him. You ladies rock! Oh, and BTW, Valerie has a great set of gams!

  3. A fabulous post! It's wonderful to see the three of you together, enjoying a show that leaves me breathless. If only I could wear the jacket/hat for two seconds!

    Your outfits with hats are as spectacular as the exhibit. Brava.

  4. We flirted with flying to Montreal in 2011 when we heard the Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective exhibition was there; we toyed with visiting Dallas ...