Jean Paul Gaultier, fashion’s enfant terrible, brings a punk street scene, cone bras with fearsome projectiles, a dominatrix in black leather, and a wedding gown with an African mask on the bodice to the de Young, one of San Francisco’s two Fine Arts Museums. There are lace and lamé, fishnet tights sporting images of the Eiffel Tower, calligraphy gowns and a beaded red maritime-themed headdress. Fashionable Hasidic Jews are featured in his Devoutly Irreverent Chic Rabbis and Vikings collection.
The fashion is audacious, the workmanship exquisite, the installation state-of-the-art, vivacious and playful. The cutting-edge French designer, with his personal themes of “equality, diversity and perversity,” is noted for his humanism and open-minded vision of society,
Jill d’Alessandro, FAMSF curator of costume and textile arts who worked on the Vivienne Westwood, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga exhibitions, calls this multi-media extravaganza the most complex installation she’s worked on.
I call it a MUST-SEE, and encourage attendance at this provocative, beautiful and totally unconventional exhibition, which opens with a roomful of seductive interactive mannequins. The first group, dressed in striped blue and white Breton sailor costumes, includes a cameo by Gaultier himself. Remarkably lifelike, the mannequins – sailors, mermaids, virgins, angels — talk and wink and even sing to visitors through ingenious audiovisual projections!
140 ensembles from the designer’s prêt à porter (ready-to-wear) and couture collections — spanning over 35 years — are presented, many for the first time. With this exhibition, the de Young offers a rare opportunity for those who have never set foot in an haute couture house to view these one-of-a-kind hand-made garments. Labeling shows which of Gaultier’s masterpieces required hundreds of hours of work.
The exhibition is divided into six thematic sections which include the Boudoir, Punk Cancan and the Urban Jungle. It concludes with Metropolis, which presents Gaultier’s collaborative work with choreographers, pop icons like Tina Turner and Madonna, and celebrated filmmakers. After working together on Kika, Bad Education andThe Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodovar said, “The costumes Jean Paul Gaultier designs are wonderfully beautiful and absolutely ‘conceptual’ at the same time. Almost no one else is able to combine both in the same garment.”
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk runs through August 19, 2012. Click here for tickets and more information.