Gaultier’s corsets are very sexy-looking, and I consider wearing them a form of personal expression. The practice is oppressive only if it is forced, and women today can choose to wear them or not; it is up to them. Plus, I wore those corsets as garments—on the outside—not as underwear hidden beneath my other clothes, the complete opposite of the way they were traditionally worn, in order to achieve a certain shape. I think that inversion of the concept of the corset is what turns it into a symbol of feminine power and sexual freedom.
I’ve always loved the graphic and architectural aspects of stripes. My mother dressed me in sailor-striped sweaters. They go with everything, never go out of style, and probably never will. There were also other influences: my grandmother, Coco Chanel, Jean Genet, Popeye, Tom of Finland, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and his film Querelle, the title character of which was the ultimate sailor, a hypersexualized gay symbol, a fantasy, an icon, a form of virility that could be ambiguous.
—Jean Paul Gaultier
Gaultier’s 2007 “Virgins” collection was inspired by the imagery and symbolism of Christianity and religious art. For the runway show, the models had tears painted on their faces and their hair was styled to resemble medieval and Renaissance paintings of the Virgin.
From an early age, I experimented with various aspects of design. I made my first cone-shaped breasts out of newsprint for my teddy bear Nana. I took a round doily from my grandmother’s house and cut out a circle in the middle of it to make a skirt for my bear. I did a bias cut that way without knowing what it was. —Jean Paul Gaultier
Sarah Jessica Parker wore this gown at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards in New York.
For the bottle, I was keen on the concept of the human body, to which I wanted to incorporate what I remembered of my grandmother’s corsets. For the packaging, I wanted to appropriate an everyday object, something solid and functional like a can, and use it in blatant contradiction to the traditionally luxurious perfume bottle. It was technically very difficult to make a flesh-colored corset bottle or even to give a tin can the shape of a corset. So, the idea was to cover a body-shaped bottle with a corset and then package it in a can—something that was protective but cold. I wanted it to seem real. Through that somewhat incompatible combination, the body thus became the content.
—Jean Paul Gaultier
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk
October 25, 2013–February 23, 2014
The Brooklyn Museum is the only East Coast venue for The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, the first international exhibition dedicated to the groundbreaking French couturier. Playful, poetic, and transformative, Gaultier’s superbly crafted and detailed garments are inspired by the beauty and diversity of global cultures.
This multimedia exhibition is organized around seven themes tracing the influences on Gaultier’s development—from the streets of Paris to the cinema—since he emerged as a designer in the 1970s. It features approximately 140 haute couture and prêt-à-porter ensembles, from the designer’s earliest to his most recent collections, many of which are displayed on custom mannequins with interactive faces created by high-definition audiovisual projections. Accessories, sketches, stage costumes, excerpts from films, and documentation of runway shows, concerts, and dance performances, as well as photographs by fashion photographers and contemporary artists who stepped into Gaultier’s world, explore how his avant-garde designs challenge societal, gender, and aesthetic codes in unexpected ways.
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in collaboration with Maison Jean Paul Gaultier, Paris. The exhibition is curated by Thierry-Maxime Loriot of the MMFA. The Brooklyn presentation is coordinated by Lisa Small, Curator of Exhibitions, Brooklyn Museum.
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