Jean Paul Gaultier Retrospective


Two days ago I went to the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition which is now on at the Barbican, the first major exhibition devoted to the celebrated French couturier.

Regulated by the Chabmre Syndcale de la Couture Parisienne, haute couture is shown exclusively in Paris. Couture houses must comply with specific requirements regarding how the garments are made, presented and sold. Unlike industrially produced pre-a-porter, couture is a fine craft in which one of a kind objects are the products of technical virtuosity. Everything involved in a couture garment must be accomplished hundreds of hours of work. Each element is undertaken by a specialist in the relevant craft, including tailors, embroiders and lace-makers among  many other. Even though it receives a great deal of media attention, rarely in the general public afforded a direct experience of haute couture.

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The 165 garments and costumes are undoubtedly more like works of art.


Jean Paul Gaultier draws clear inspiration from uniforms to mermaids and the Madonna. The Breton stripe is a design staple for Gaultier and he routinely reworks variations of the stripes in both his haute couture and pret-a-porter collections. As well as the sailor jumper in which he was dressed from a young age, other sources of nautical inspiration cited by Gaultier include Coco Chanel and Popeye.

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I loved seeing the iconic “Bustiers” and the very famous Madonna cone bo as well as the one worn by Grace Jones James Bond.

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Jean Paul Gaultier was fascinated when he came to London in the 1960s by the Punk Style and fashion. Here as some of his interpretations of this alternative look. Loved the Union Jack Mohoc and Amy Winehouse manequin. Gaultier caused shock by using unconventional models for his exhibitions, like older men and full-figured women, pierced and heavily tattooed models, and by playing with traditional gender roles in the shows. This earned him both criticism and enormous popularity.

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Gaultier is fascinated by world cultures and countercultures, conceiving a new kind of fashion in both the way it is made and worn. Through twists, transformations, transgressions and reinterpretations, he not only erases the boundaries between cultures but also the sexes, redefining the idea of androgyny or subverting fashion codes. I loved the concept of one of the collections that of “skin deep beauty”


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My favorite collection was that of the Urban Jungle: Jumpsuits with parrot feather wings on the arms, crocodile leather ensemble, feather and beaded dresses. The use of different materials, medium and textures was so impressive and a real joy to see.

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If you get a chance you should definitely check out this collection at the Barbican and if can’t then I hope that this post has enabled you to see some of these amazing creations 🙂

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