Written By: Allison Hibbs
He was responsible for Madonna’s cone bras.
He created the wild outfits used in the wacky future-fiction movie, “The Fifth Element.”
He made bondage chic and brought the British punk rock look of the early eighties to the world’s most exclusive runways.
Even if you don’t know the name Jean Paul Gaultier, you almost certainly know the man.
“The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk,” enthusiastically acclaimed exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art, is scheduled to close next weekend on Feb.12, so you’ve got one last chance to get to know him a little better. From the shockingly sexy Boudoir collection to his fascinating use of industrial materials in the Metropolitan room, this is an exhibit not to miss.
“I’m not such a good speaker,” says the voice of Gaultier himself upon entering the exhibit, his talking face projected onto a mannequin dressed in a sailor ensemble (that he designed for himself to wear in an interview with pop superstar Lady Gaga). He communicates best through his clothing, he tells his visitors. And it’s true. One can only stand there and listen for a short while before being drawn away into the changing landscapes and attitudes of his apparel. The exhibit is set up in six distinct sections, yet certain ideas – like his fascination with S&M – carry through his work like a refrain.
“I respect individualities and I like particularities,” reads a quote attributed to the designer on the wall in the Urban Jungle room. “I mix and match, collect, twist and crossbreed codes. Past, present, here, elsewhere, masculine, feminine, remarkable, humdrum – it all coexists.” A delicate Spanish dress cut through with bondage leather; a pink floating ball gown with the crotch cut out; a full tulle skirt in camouflage coloring next to a glittering plaid mens’ kilt; Gaultier has a knack for making the scandalous seem sumptuous, for turning the gutter into glamour and for creating couture from the least likely corners of human experience.
Alongside the fabulous fabrics and intriguing ensembles worn by talking mannequins are actual sketches by Gaultier, rare prints on loan from renowned photographers and glowing quotes from contemporaries such as Pierre Cardin and Pedro Almodóvar. Scenes from movies for which he designed costumes play on variously sized screens throughout the rooms. Even the designer’s well-worn childhood teddy bear is on display, wearing – you guessed it – a cone bra. He designed it when he was only seven years old.
Everyone who makes it to see this truly extraordinary exhibit is sure to find at least a few favorites. From the Madonna to the mermaid (and that’s just the first room!), Gaultier manages to pay homage to kink, heritage, culture, counterculture, flora, fauna and fantasy all with a sense of openness, possibility and joy.
After Feb. 12, the collection will travel to San Francisco and then on to Europe.