Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New York Stories Part 1 - Jean Paul Gaultier at the Brooklyn Museum*

* aka Jean Paul Gaultier and Three Fashionistas Invade Brooklyn

Autumn - when a not-so-young woman's thoughts turn to..... New York!  I made what is becoming the annual pilgrimage to my favourite city, New York, last week, timing the trip to coincide with the Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show, and the opening of the exhibit, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, at the Brooklyn Museum.  I was thrilled to be invited to the press preview for the show that took place on Wednesday, October 23rd at the Museum, as were my friends Jean and Valerie, aka The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas.

A very nice man (actually several) wanted to take our photo, so we used it as an opportunity to get a shot of the three of us in front of the poster advertising the show, which features model Tanel Bedrossiantz wearing the velvet cone breast dress from Gaultier's 1984-1985 "Barbes" Fall Winter collection.  Jean is on the left, Valerie on the right, and I am the shameless hussy seated on the floor, unknowingly flashing a lot of thigh. 

I don't get excited about many fashion designers - there are a few, including Rick Owens, Issey Miyake, and Pierre Cardin, whose designs I admire and covet, but I don't have a burning desire to meet them.   For me, the two designers whose work I see as art rather than clothing are Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen.  One of my few regrets in life is not seeing the McQueen exhibit when it was in New York, and I was determined not to miss the Gaultier one.  Gaultier, born in Paris, started his career working with Pierre Cardin and by the 1980's was a renowned young designer.  His work has a strong theatrical flair, and he has explored this in designs for performers like Madonna and Kylie Minogue, costumes for films (ie. The Fifth Element) and for the performing arts.  He has always championed inclusivity in his designs and says that everyone, no matter what age, colour, or body shape, can wear them.   In his remarks at the press preview, Gaultier emphasized his belief in individuality in statements like, " I always love the difference" and "why try to be like the other, when you are not?"

M. Gaultier spoke for almost 8 minutes to the members of the press gathered at the Museum and displayed great charm, warmth and wit.  Click play on the video above to hear him discuss the exhibit, the animated mannequins, and his design inspirations. 

The exhibit, which was initiated and produced by The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2011, features 130 outfits, accompanied by videos, sketches, and photographs.  Rather than a chronological arrangement, the outfits are organized into seven thematic sections:  The Odyssey, The Boudoir, Muses, Punk CanCan, Skin Deep, Metropolis, and Urban Jungle.

The trio responsible for the exhibit pose for photos after the introduction - from left, Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, designer Jean Paul Gaultier, and the exhibition curator, Thierry-Maxime Loriot.

I had noticed M. Loriot before I knew who he was, as he was rather difficult to miss in his fantastic leather flight suit that looked like it was custom-made for him. 

The combination of the outfit and M. Loriot's boyish good looks was irresistible and so I shamelessly maneuvered myself into a photograph with him.

I had to get a photo of these two very cool gentlemen I ran into a few times at the event.  I am pretty sure the turban worn by the man on the left was orange, so I'm not sure why it's showing up yellow in the photo.

an Italian journalist wearing a Gaultier dress

The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas were also wearing Gaultier-designed dresses

The exhibit is a theatrical spectacle in itself - many of the mannequins revolve to show all angles of the outfits and some travel on continuously moving catwalks.  Thirty-two of the mannequins have interactive faces created by high-definition audiovisual projections of celebrities who have lent their faces and voices to the project.  The custom-made mannequins were the work of Denis Marleau and Stephanie Jasmin of UBU/Companie de creation of Montreal, Jolicoeur International of Quebec. You can see some of the animated mannequins from the Odyssey section in the short video above.

One of my favourite parts of the exhibit were the fantastical wigs and headpieces created by renowned hairstylist Odile Gilbert and her Atelier 68 team.

Hinged corset embellished with jewels, shells and mother of pearl, from the Mermaids collection

Gaultier's designs exemplify "God is in the details".   We had a limited amount of time in which to view the exhibit after the press conference, and I could have spent hours just examining the elaborate embellishments and fabric constructions.

detail from "Ex-Voto" gown from the Virgins (or Madonnas) Collection

The exhibit section titled The Boudoir celebrates the designer's fascination with corsetry and lingerie and features some of his iconic cone bras and corsets created for Madonna's 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour and 2012 MDNA tour.  The satin ribbon corset-style gown above was from the Black Swan Collection.  Gaultier's childhood teddy bear, "Nana", is displayed in the glass case to the left of the mannequin, wearing his first cone bra, created in the 1960's.

detail of ribbon corset dress

Four corsets from the show - clockwise from top left:  Corset made of vintage lame worn by Madonna in her Blond Ambition tour, wheat and braided straw corset from the Countryside Babes collection, patent-leather cage corset shown with costume sketch for Madonna's MDNA 2012 tour, Fan-style man's satin corset from House of Pleasures collection.

 photo of Madonna by Jean-Baptiste Mondino
The exhibit included photographs of celebrities wearing Gaultier creations such as this one of Madonna in the gold lame corset pictured above.  There were also reproductions of some of the original costume sketches for her tours.

The most dramatically staged section was the Punk CanCan room, with its graffiti painted walls. This section of the exhibit showed the variety of influences at play in Gaultier's designs - London punk, Scottish tartan, Parisian classicism, camouflage, etc.  The outfits also demonstrate the variety of materials used in his designs - denim, leather, latex, wool, feathers, chain mail, tulle, lace, etc.

studded chain mail biker-style jacket from the 2009 Haute Couture Spring/Summer Calligraphy collection

 The face of model Eve Salvail is projected onto one of the mannequins

 Left - dress from Paris and Its Muses collection (2000 - 2001); Right - leather jacket from Rock Stars Collection (Mens' Pret-a-Porter 1997 - 1998)

Detail of camouflage-effect ruffled tulle evening gown worn by Sarah Jessica Parker at the MTV Awards in 2000

Outfits in the "Urban Jungle" section showing Gaultier's mixing and matching of multi-ethnic influences.

Left - Synthetic fur and bull-print satin robe-look coat.   Right - Mongolian shearling coat that had been worn by Bjork on the runway.  Both outfits from The Great Journey Collection.

"Shield" fan-pleated chiffon gown with tulle veil from the Tribute to Africa collection

The presence of the designer was as exciting as the exhibit and he was continually being surrounded by members of the press

I spotted M. Gaultier walking away from the crowd of fans, and throwing all tact and propriety out the window,  I scurried after him, having no idea of what I was going to say.    I can't remember exactly what I said -  it was probably incoherently mushy, but he took it all with generous good humour and said to me, "You have a good look, and you look like a person who is very comfortable in her own skin".  He then shook my hand and headed off.  Talk about a SQUEEEEEEEE moment, and luckily, Valerie was passing by and managed to capture it on film.

Gaultier, obliging a photographer with an impish grin, posing next to a photograph of himself by Pierre et Giles

Talk about ending on a high note!  An obliging photographer, Petros Poulopoulos, took this photo of the three of us with the Man of the Hour, and was kind enough to send it to us.

You can read more about the event and the exhibit on the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas' blog here and on the website for the Brooklyn Museum here.   The exhibit continues until February 23rd, 2014. Many thanks to the Brooklyn Museum and Sally Williams for the opportunity to attend the event.


  1. Oh my gosh, Shelley, what a fabulous post! I have been a Gaultier fan for years, and would have loved to have see this exhibit, and how amazing that you got to meet him and be immortalized in a photo with him! So very cool.

  2. How fantastic, you three make an absolutely amazing combination.
    I bet people were falling over themselves to snap you! The last photo is out of this world. M Loriot is gorgeous!
    I've bought and sold on several Gaultier pieces in the past because sadly, they've never been my size. He's one iconic designer but the real reason I love him was through the TV show he used to host in the 1980s, Eurotrash. xxx

  3. Oh, yes, I can see how JPG's designs feature inclusivity and how anyone can wear them?!!! But as individuals... You bet I would.
    Okay, did you absolutely pee yourself with excitement or was it so exciting that you felt rather floaty and surreal? I think the three of you together look as great as anything on display. It helps that you're ALIVE. Seriously, you guys look incredible. What a fun evening with awesome photo keepsakes. Tell us more!

  4. That was certainly an exciting event. I love JPG perfume most. Thanks for sharing, looking at the picture, it felt as if I was there with you!

  5. What an experience! So happy you shared. I'm sure you will be framing that photo : )


  6. OK, it's official. I am GREEN with envy. What a FUN event to go to, and with the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas as well. Well, I would have just DIED. (In that sense, I suppose it's good I didn't go!)

    I loved the corsetry and the wigs. Actually, I'm pretty partial to anything theatrical. What does that say about me? I'm a big ham? It's a possibility, but I'm not admitting anything til further investigation.

    Cheers from ex-Vancouverite in England,
    Rosemary from www.foreveronthecatwalkoflife.blogspot.com

  7. I am SQUEEING with you!1 what a fantastic opportunity!! All three of you look fabulous!!
    Thank you for sharing this with us!! Gautier isn't a fashion designer in my book--he is an artist who's medium happens to be clothing!!

  8. OMG! you have a pic with JP, OMG! OMG! Girl! I'm gonna faint for sure and i'm so jealous at this moment!
    I have seen that exhibit in Montreal during a Montreal Fashion Event- I was speechless when i saw the collection, so amazing, so much talent - I loved how the Museum of Fine Arts presented JP beautiful collection - The mannequin looked so real -

    I'm happy that you had such a good time Shelley and more happy that you met the JP


  9. I think that's the same exhibition G and I saw in San Francisco last year, except there were no travelling catwalks!!! It was dazzling! He is one of the few designers I admire for his innovation and creativity!!! How frigging WONDERFUL to actually MEET HIM!!!! Jaysus!! You're just his kind of person, brave and individual and clever and creative!!! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! Just gloriarse, darling! Whata fantabularse time! I love those Idiosyncratic Fashionista babes, too.
    It's all too much, I'm SO excited for you!

  10. I don't even know where to begin this post has so much awesome that I am really just blown away. I would love to have been there and seen all this mind blowing can I even call it fashion no it's art! You look right at home among all those exceptionally dressed people. The corset is really insane INSANE my boobs they are not worthy but I want it anyway! Take me next time please!

  11. like Krista, I did not know where to begin my comment!!! How about OMG SQUEE and OMG again! How cool to meet with him in the flesh. I want to go and buy and book with photos of all of his things, I think he is amazing. I just love the yellow tartan maxi and the leather jacket. SWOOON.

  12. Shelley, your review is magnificent. Many peak experiences packed into a small space in time. The three of you are stunningly beautiful in your ensembles, including headwear, and you all look radiant and totally engaged. Congratulations on creating a day to remember forever!

    I am totally taken with the headpieces in your photos. I could linger over this post for hours.

  13. If we hadn't been there ourselves we'd be absolutely GREEN with envy! These are fabulous photographs! And thank you so much for focusing on the marvelous hats. There was so much to see one couldn't really take in everything in one sitting (or standing, that is), but you picked a lot of the very best hightlights. GOT to go back!

  14. wouuauau, you're a star and it's absolutely amazing that you met Idiosyncratic Fashionistas and Mr. Gaultier himself, and all on the same night!, and looking so delightfully fabulous (and prettily matched with Idiosyncratic ladies, you're gloriously colorful!
    besos & enthusiasm

  15. Wow, wow and wow. What an amazing opportunity, Shelley! You all look gorg. I'd sidle on up to that cutie in the leather one-piece any time. :)

  16. Shelly, you must still be on a high. Talk about taking big bites out of life!! That looks like so much fun. I have one Gaultier dress purchased long ago at an seriously discounted price, and I periodically admire it. It's pretty small and I'm larger now, but it still hangs with my special pieces. You look great and I'm delighted that you were able to enjoy yourself in NY. I went to the Manhattan Vintage show one year and went crazy. Maybe next time if life calms down a bit. XXXOOO

  17. How lovely! Yours is actually the second blog account I've read of this show. I love how you both got to meet the artist you admire so much and it's been great fun to see the different photos you both chose to showcase. (If you want to check out the other, it is the blog everythingjustso.net)

  18. Oh my gawd, you have had a VERY exciting time!! How wonderful - the exhibition looks amazing (and thanks so much for the beautifully written and photographed review - so much fantastic information I never knew!) and you looked incredible - M. Gaultier certainly knew how to pick you as a woman very comfortable in your own skin - what a marvellous compliment from someone who knows a thing or two about being comfortable in your skin!

    You all look amazing - I am just about falling over from all of this wonderful adventure.

    Sarah xxx