jean paul gaultier

This summer, London welcomes the arrival of two exhibitions celebrating French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier – From Sidewalk to Catwalk at the Barbican is the first major exhibition of Gaultier’s work, while London College of Fashion’s Jean Paul Gaultier: Be My Guest is dedicated to the avant–gardist’s campaign designs. Together, these two exhibitions provide a rich overview of a designer renowned for his passion, skill, mass appeal and humanism.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From Sidewalk to Catwalk started life at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and pays homage to the diversity at the heart of Gaultier’s work; the Museum’s curator Nathalie Bondil says of the show: “It’s not about fashion but social vision”.

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Structured thematically, the exhibition takes the visitor on a journey through the mind of this extraordinary icon; from the aquatic odyssey of Breton-stripe inspired pieces, to the monochrome aesthetics of his bondage collections and the intricate craft and feminine beauty of the boudoir. Areas of the exhibition dedicated to denim, tartan, corsetry and pink satins, illustrates Gaultier’s tendency to initiate and rejuvenate trends rather than follow them. The themes of his work are returned to again and again by emerging designers and students today – from lingerie as clothing to androgynous style and streetwear.

In a Q & A at the Barbican, Gaultier said: ”It is more inspiring to look at people not in fashion, who are young and free. They have nothing to lose. Later, they have a code and it is boring’. This belief is made evident in the Muses room of the exhibition, which features costumes worn by the likes of Beth Ditto, Kylie Minogue and Dita von Teese.

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Gaultier was born in a suburb of Paris in the 60s and without any formal education established himself in the formidable couture industry of Paris, where he trained with the likes of Pierre Cardin. However, the designer cites London as a major source of inspiration, having an innate understanding and appreciation of British subcultures such as punk. Of the exhibition’s arrival in London and the huge body of work inspired by the city, Gaultier said: “I am showing it back to you like an homage”.

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In tribute to this retrospective, crammed full of exquisitely crafted and iconic garments, London College of Fashion’s Fashion Space Gallery presents Jean Paul Gaultier: Be My Guest, featuring original invitation and campaign designs from the Gaultier Archive, spanning the designer’s forty year career.

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Curator of International Exhibitions at LCF Alison Moloney says of the exhibition: “We thought it was a nice idea to tell the story of his collections through the invitations, and show how his collections have developed over the years”. Gaultier has always taken great care and consideration in the creation of invites and campaigns, and been keen to formulate a rounded experience of the Gaultier brand and collection. It was also through his ad campaigns, in the 80s and 90s, that the designer could really share his opinions on aspects of popular culture and sub culture such as punk, skinheads, religion and art. Yet, the diversity of his work, both on and off the catwalk never compromises the essence and style of the Gaultier brand, which runs throughout the exhibition. “It is really inspirational for students to see how they can brand themselves” says Alison Moloney.

Details from two Jean Paul Gaultier campaign designs

Jean Paul Gaultier: Be My Guest runs until 26 July at Fashion Space Gallery, London College of Fashion. Find out more

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk runs until 25 August at Barbican Art Gallery. Find out more

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See more shots from the show on Instagram