The National Gallery of Victoria is the perfect location for The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier – From the Side Walk to the Cat Walk exhibition. A feast for the senses, the exhibition appeals to visitors from all walks of life, from the most ardent followers of fashion, to those whose interest is more focused on art, or those who are simply interested in a fun or entertaining day out.
For those already familiar with Jean Paul Gaultier’s designs, this is a chance to gain a more in-depth understanding of the French designer’s lifetime of work. Students of fashion can study his early sketches, behind the scenes polaroids, high fashion photo shoots and experience his work in various forms of multi media. But there is a broader appeal in this exhibition than to just fashion students and local designers.
For Australians, this is also a very rare opportunity to examine the stunning Gaultier gowns up close. On our shores, it’s likely that the majority of the Gaultier products to be found in even our most up-market stores would be be limited to perfumes and sunglasses. But, after seeing these displays of garments for themselves, visitors will be able to appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into high fashion designs, details that the best fashion photography and fashion show footage can’t capture.
Containing a mix of popular culture and various forms of media, the star of the show really is its haute couture. At this level of couture, the exhibition reveals that there is no question that fashion is, in fact, art.
There’s a message behind Gaultier’s work with his designs being conceived to change and challenge you. Looking at the couture pieces up close, you can see the meaning and message behind them. You can see the stitching in every seam and realise that every detail is perfect. E very single piece is delivered in a new and exciting way, yet still forms part of a whole cohesive collection. There really is no question that each piece is a true work of art, each with its own message, and each a part of Jean Paul Gaultier’s grand vision.
The collection spans decades and yet the designs are somehow timeless in their unique creativity. You can follow the distinct elements of the trademark Gaultier style through the years and identify his reoccurring themes and influences. The pieces are grouped into themed rooms and are accompanied by extensive information about the designs themselves and his inspirations.
Visiting the exhibition you’ll find yourself gaining a new appreciation of the genius of this designer and how revolutionary his work really has been. Since the beginning of his career, he has pushed the boundaries of what we accept as fashion and beauty and this is something that has set him apart from other designers. His work is consistently new, unique and revolutionary. He has taken influences and ideas from around the world, but brought it together to create something completely new.
All great artists must take risks in their work and have real passion driving their ideas and there is far more going on in his designs than just the design itself. As pretty as the latest Prada or Stella McCartney dress may be, it won’t confront you, challenge you and change you the way a Gaultier piece can.
It is said that with genius comes madness, and some visitors may get a sense of this after seeing some of his more out-there designs. Gaultier is certainly no stranger to controversy. His use of unconventional models, rather than stereotypically beautiful people has helped promote the acceptance of all body types as truly beautiful. Even devoted followers of his fashion may not have realised before seeing the show just how influential he has been and how his pieces are a critique of or commentary of our society.
But, at the same time, his fashion is fun! There’s something quite cheeky about many of his designs and Gaultier himself has the playful air of a little boy.
The exhibition makes excellent use of technology to help bring his garments life. Some dresses are displayed on lifelike moving mannequins that smile and even talk to you. One room features an elevated catwalk displaying a collection of some of his runway fashions. This kind of innovation is impressive to see and just one of the elements of the exhibition that makes it so appealing to everyone, even for those with little or no interest in fashion.
Throughout his career, Gaultier has embraced all forms of popular culture and collaborated with artists and stars from many different fields. Included in this exhibition is a special section on his Australian muses including Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue and Andreja Pejic. The lattter – who, as a transgender model is perhaps the ideal muse to represent Gaultier’s ideal society, perfectly encompassing his vision of a world without divisions.
What almost everyone will take away from this exhibition is the appreciation of high fashion as art, especially in the work of Jean Paul Gaultier.
Gaultier is one of the most famous and influential designers of our time for good reason. This exhibition is a rare opportunity to see his work and experience his world for yourself. -Until February 8 at NGV
– Georgina Mary Tippett
Ed: Have you seen this exhibition? What do you think? Do you agree? We’re giving away a $20 iTunes voucher for your best comment below.