The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier is the first major exhibition to bring some of his most iconic works together in one place. The French designer, whose versatility is unmatched, honours London’s Barbican Centre with his intricate and imaginative creations. Jute Magazine’s Yinsey Wang from Torn + Polished talks about her experiences at the exhibition.

It’s almost unnerving how someone can be this talented. Utterly passionate about mixing, reinventing and borrowing, Gaultier works with so many different textile mediums with such mastery and sensitivity to the human form. Although he is first and foremost a couturier, he is also known for his larger-than-life personality. His eccentric eye for style and love of chaotic sources of inspiration are captured well in the curation of these pieces.

Funnily enough, it was a bit creepy entering into the exhibition at first, as when you walk in, the mannequins have holographic, talking faces; and not only do they talk, they literally talk gibberish! It’s quite fun and lighthearted, and you almost forget that these pieces are priceless, timeless works of art.


Above: Beth Ditto’s stunning mermaid dress

The wackiness of the presentation of the pieces, however, doesn’t detract from how gorgeous and hauntingly beautiful they are. There are different flavours on show, espousing the playful, seductive, sexual, haughty, religious, militaristic and even the divine. One thing, above all, I admire in Gaultier’s stylistic tendencies and designs is that his forms are wide-ranging and his muses come in all different shapes and sizes. In particular, I adore his use of gender narratives in his pieces, and you can see how he challenges us to rethink our rigid assertions of who can wear what, and how they wear them.


Above: The iconic pointy bustier dress.

Gaultier doesn’t just demonstrate what he’s capable of, he flaunts it. For example, I was completely taken by this leopard dress that is comprised of very fine, small beads. The effect is, when you step back, that it actually looks like fur.


Above: Don’t worry, anti-fur fans, this feline-inspired dress is made out of individual beads. 

The exhibition is full of something for everyone. You will be able to revisit some of the most memorable fashion editorials and celebrity images (including Kurt Cobain) decked in Gaultier’s designs in a photography section, as well as peruse the intricate, lively drawings Gaultier worked on over the years. There is also interesting video content that explores his impact on science fiction and avant garden fashion in films.


Above: Gaultier’s love of the sea and fantasy is clear through his allusions to mermaids.

As a bit of a magpie, I couldn’t resist the shimmery materials and the golds and silvers in some of the collections on show. What’s fantastic is that some of the pieces aren’t separated by a glass window or barriers so you can really come face-to-face with the minute details of his work. For some of the most priceless items, you’ll have to admire them from a distance, but luckily enough, they’ve been thoughtfully presented so you don’t feel like you’re missing much.


Above: Caged corset

Gaultier also plays with influences from different cultures and textile traditions. There are intricate explorations of patterns, weaving, and crating of silhouettes; take this fanciful design below, for example. Though I am rather cynical of Orientalist notions of Eastern cultures in Western high fashion, I must admit I was impressed by the way he incorporated nomadic touches, as below.


Above: Gaultier is a master in assimilating techniques and pieces taken from different cultures. 

We spent a good two hours there, and there was a lot to get through. All in all, I didn’t want the exhibition to end. It’s full of theatrics, thrills, subtleties and empowering visuals that show the sheer fashion force of Jean Paul Gaultier and how much of an impact he has had on modern culture.


Above: Gaultier revisits Medieval times with this incredibly detailed dress. 

The exhibition is being held at the Barbican Centre in London. It ends on 25 August 2014. 


submission fashion magazineAbout the author: North Londoner Yinsey Wang is a hobbyist who runs blog Torn + Polished with her best friend, Trinh Quan. She loves fashion, cute animals, dark chocolate, and singing. When she’s not busy pretending to be a photographer, she’s going on cycling adventures and day trips to beautiful English towns with her partner-in-crime (aka love of her life), Han. 

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