Artist Spotlight: Jean Paul Gaultier

cone bra
A lifelong inspiration: Jean Paul Gaultier’s teddy bear, Nana, wearing the first cone bra © Rainer Torrado (left). Tanel Bedrossiantz, 1992 Barbès collection Women’s prêt-à-porter fall/winter 1984–1985 © Paolo Roversi (right)

Today I surprised myself by visiting the deYoung Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park specifically to see the The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk running through August 19, 2012. Broken into the personal themes of “equality, diversity and perversity” it seemed everyone I knew said “you just have to see is amazing”. WOW. I agree.

In addition to enjoying the mouthwatering fabric combinations, internationally inspired designs and amusing Tony Oursler–like video projections, I learned a lot about Gaultier. For example, his fascination with cone breasts seem to go back to childhood as illustrated above with his first teddy bear “Nana”and did not begin, as I a teenager of the 80s assumed, with Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour.

That early inspiration gave way to a massive and prolific life career of amazing ensembles for the runway, film and even a line for Target stores. Have you found your “cone bra” at Target yet?

Jean Paul Gaultier by Pierre et Gilles

Most impressive outside of the work itself was the timeline of Gaultier’s career. Born in 1952 and growing up 45 minutes on the outskirts of Paris, at 16 Gaultier had already sketched two complete fashion lines which he promptly shipped to Pierre Cardin’s office and was hired by the time he was 18. By the age of 20, he was given a solo runway show. No “formal education” is listed in the Gaultier timeline – but his flurry of ideas and sketches never seemed to stop as illustrated by the sheer amount of imaginative and inspired designs he continues to create. These designs, brought to life by moving simulated runways and talking video projections, one from Gaultier himself in famed mariner inspired attire, properly showcase the drama of his creations in the exhibit. Additional still photographs, some by the famous French duo “Pierre et Gilles” are also on display and capture his experimental spirit in 2d form.

The show itself is more of a contemporary installation than a fashion retrospective, and a creation in its own right—featuring approximately 140 ensembles spanning over 35 years from the designer’s couture and ready-to-wear collections, along with their accessories, and numerous archival documents. Many of these extraordinary pieces have never before been exhibited – check out a preview below and don’t miss the show! -Erika

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