The countdown to New Year’s Eve has begun and you still haven’t decided on a suitable outfit. You want to stand out, look amazing, spectacular and unforgettable. There’s one designer who can guarantee that your entrance will make heads turn and jaws drop: Jean-Paul Gaultier, French designer extraordinaire. If the price tag for one of his outrageous, superbly crafted and innovative designs is over your budget, head off to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne for some inspiration. The NGV is the only Australian venue to host the international traveling exhibition of over 140 Jean Paul Gaultier garments. What an extravaganza!
My trip Down Under fortunately coincided with this ground-breaking exhibition. Talk about interactive – this exhibition positively brings the models alive with animated human faces projected right onto the mannequins’ faces, resulting in talking, singing models that appear to be humanoid robotic hybrids.
It’s almost creepy. I was admiring one of Gaultier’s earlier designs using the iconic French blue-and-white marine stripes when the cute sailor mannequin looked me straight in the eye and winked with a devilish smile on his lips!
Gaultier himself appeared on the face on one of the models, explaining in a sexy French-accented voice that his inspiration is rooted in his belief in gender equality, in being able to express who you are – that includes all facets of one’s personality. He believes in illusion and in turning expectations upside down – men wearing long dresses, dresses worn back the front or the naked body displayed on the outside of the garment. At age 62, the designer appears to have broken all conventions, so the mind boggles at what he has yet to create.
The four large galleries housing his creations were thematically varied – one of the galleries was fashioned like a Parisian catwalk surrounded by graffiti-riddled walls while another resembled Amsterdam’s red light district. The guy is a genius – he has expanded the realm of fashion beyond the stratosphere. His work is drenched in fetishist sexual innuendo. Using all manner of embellishment – feathers, fur, sequins, embossed metals and tulle, his designs are a melange of cultural icons and gender-bending references.
I think he is incapable of producing anything that is even mildly mundane or pedestrian – even silverware finds its way into his designs:
He has dressed the likes of Beyonce, Madonna and Nicole Kidman, and his haute couture is paraded on red carpets around the world. But us ordinary folks can take his lead by expressing our individuality. So dive into your closets (and your partners’ closets) and see what unlikely pairings to ring in the new year with a personal stlyle that spells ‘THIS IS ME’. Above all, have fun and have a Happy New Year!
For more information on the exhibition:http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/jeanpaulgaultier/overview.