8 Reasons To See The Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibition

As The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk opens at The Barbican today, the man himself tells us exactly why this is one exhibition we need to see...

1. He’s alive and kicking off…

‘I want to thank the museum,’ he began at the press preview yesterday. ‘Because normally they do the retrospective when you are dead. It is quite pleasant to see it!’ Famous for saying exactly what he’s thinking (‘I’m shy that’s why I talk, talk, talk’), Jean Paul Gaultier is opening up his wild and rich design archives to reflect on 165 of his most iconic creations, no less.

2. There’s a shrine to Kylie…

She’s holding a serpent, and there’s lots of glitter. JPG has a whole wing dedicated to his muses, from Erin O’Connor, to Kate Moss, to Beth Ditto. ‘My muses are lively people that make me react,’ he told us.

3. The mannequins SING…

… And talk and master a perfect rouge pout. Walking into the exhibition, you’re greeted by a synthetic crew of couture-clad striped-up sailor boys. Sure, you think, (JPG is the king of Eurotrash-fash, after all) until one of them winks at you. Totally smitten.

4. Despite hailing from Paris, he’s an original London punk…

‘There was a time I thought about living in London, I was coming every big weekend to go to the clubs from 1976,’ he said. Jean Paul became friends with the famous Brit Blitz set, a cast of creatives like Stephen Jones, Boy George and Pam Hogg who defined 70s and 80s sub-cultures with their avant-garde styling. ‘I had a lot of fun when I came to London. You say “sorry, no sex, we are British, but I know this is not a true story! It was the opposite!”‘ he laughed. 

5. He’s the ultimate showman and a super-feminist…

Archive footage from Jean Paul’s runway productions reminds us how much he loves to put characters on the catwalk. ‘When models were told to “be beautiful and shut up” I found it scandalous,’ he told us. ‘I always wanted the girl to express herself in the show. And I wanted the male to be a sex object too. I think it’s worked because look at all the cougars – Voila!’

6. There’s a Madonna bra boudoir…

The conical bustier that JPG made for Madonna’s 1992 Blonde Ambition tour made fashion history and cemented his status as a pop couture king. Surely one of the exhibition’s biggest draws, two whole rooms are dedicated to Jean Paul’s famous corsets. The walls are even lined in blush-coloured satin – ooh la la!

7. He’s designed a special eclaire for the occasion…

Well you would, wouldn’t you? Jean Paul has collaborated with PAUL bakery on the limited edition pastry. Because nothing says Parisian chic like a Breton striped chocolate topping.

8. He wants you to love it…

‘The French critics didn’t give a shit about my collection,’ he said about the reception of his early work in Paris. ‘In France if you dressed in some different way to the classic code you are looked at like a freak. I am honoured to have 1/8th of English blood from my grandfather’s side. You, the roast beefs, embrace me the [French] frog – I appreciate it and hope you love the exhibition.’

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