Have you ever visited a world where teddy bears wear cone shaped bras, men look sexy in feathered bustiers and hasidic jews are style inspirations? Welcome to the world of Jean-Paul Gaultier!
“Non-conformist designer seeks unusual models—the conventionally pretty need not apply.”
A Jean-Paul Gaultier classified recruiting models
I just went to the Jean-Paul Gaultier “From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal and it was amazing! As soon as visitors entered they were thrown into the incredible world of the designer, going through his iconic designs such as the nautical strips, religious icons, corsets and many more…
Like magic, the mannequins came alive, talked to you and followed you with their eyes. The faces were covered with a blank canvas on which the recording of faces in movement were projected, creating the illusion of animated mannequins. It was really well done and left everyone amused and fascinated.
Throughout the retrospective, the design team made the exhibition really exciting with quirky and original displays, using lighting, projections, video and sound. Each of the 6 different sections of the gallery had their own flavor and took us into a new realm of Jean-Paul Gaultier’s imagination.
The designer takes you on a journey where all cultures mesh together into a festive outfit fit for a dominatrix and where sex and imagination have no limits. In his world of cultural melting-pot we forget all about the realities of diplomacy and politics. Exploiting stereotypes and preconceptions, all unite around fashion to create a new harmony. This sentiment reminded me of the 90′s and its Benetton ads, when the trend was to melt all cultures into one big society.
The visionaire went further in his quest of breaking down barriers, exploring genders and transgenders. Turning objects of control and classification like the corset and the skirt into elements of power and freedom for women and men. On her 1990 world tour Blond Ambition, Madonna personified this image of a strong woman whose cone bra claimed a new liberation of the human body.
Jean-Paul Gaultier has always drawn inspiration from the ideal of the Parisienne woman, whose class and chic he revisited over and over in his collections, always with humor and kinkyness. This eccentric French touch made him very popular in Japan, where he seduced with his reinvention of feminity and his exploration of punk.
The designer had a fruitful relationship with Hermes for which he designed women’s wear (2003-2010), creating new icons for the brand in woman’s fashion such as the leather-saddle bustier. Gaultier said he had lived a “love story” with Hermes and that he was sad it ended. Last spring, the brand made headlines after Hermes sold its 45% stake in the company to Spanish perfume maker Puig (owner of Carolina Herrera and Nina Ricci).
The new deal gives Puig control over Gaultier’s main money making asset: his perfumes estimated from 100 million to 200 million euros. But Puig will have to wait 2016, when the perfume rights owned by the French Beauty Prestige International, part of the Japanese Shiseido giant, will expire. His most popular fragrances Classique and Le Mâle, are top sellers in the perfume industry since their launches in the 90′s.
His aim is now to develop the brand in Asia where it has a lot of untapped potential. As recent revenues barely covered operating-costs, Jean-Paul Gaultier is eager to get new funds in order to cover his losses and launch his Asian strategy. His Frenchy image and his originality will seduce Asian shoppers. Outside of Japan however, consumers need to discover the designer before fully appreciating him. It would be great PR to have the Montreal exhibit travel to the main Chinese cities where other luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton already collaborated with museums.
I am looking forward to his forays into Asia and to see what he will come-up with next! All-in-all, I left the museum feeling exhilarated and amazed by all the beauty and inventiveness of Jean-Paul Gaultier.
At the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until October 2nd, 2011.