Gaultier In San Francisco

Perhaps I’m a bit off my nut, but there’s just something about going to a museum all by my lonesome. It’s as if everything there was crafted just for me, as if the work traveled through its artist vessel just so that my eyes could feast upon it.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at the de Young Museum in San Francisco was just that sort of feast.

For being such a so-called enfant terrible back in the day, Gaultier sure has a knack for making people happy. I was surrounded by throngs of people who, like me, were charmed by the designer’s unchecked flights of fancy and commitment to over-the-top beauty and bizarreness, harnessing inspiration from cultures around the world.

And the CLOTHES. Oh, the clothes. From religious iconography to mermaid bustiers to cone bras to human anatomy-inspired bodysuits, the man has done it all. Push buttons? Check. Create stunning works of art? Check. Have fun whilst doing both? Check.

Though the guards told me that sketching was forbidden during the show, I managed to rebel a bit and sneak in the rough outlines of a few drawings:


Inkbramble sketches from the Gaultier exhibit at the de Young

I traipsed back and forth through the various rooms over and over, retracing my steps to view all of the clothing and photos and illustrations from every possible angle. I got down on my knees to examine the stitches more closely. I went round and round each ensemble, smiling and giggling at Gaultier’s irrepressibly experimental spirit and positive, all-inclusive outlook expressed so exquisitely in his 40+ year collection of work.

Highlights included:

  1. A Samurai-inspired bodysuit (originally worn by Alek Wek on the S/S 2004 couture runway) with bits of artfully patched together with a running stitch to create an exaggerated hip
  2. The “Immaculata” gown from the S/S 2007 couture Virgins (or Madonnas) collection, featuring alchemical and religious etchings appliqued, collage-like, onto incredible white lace and crochet work
  3. The grisly and fascinating trio of anatomically-inspired corsets and bodysuits, complete with veins, musculature, and Swarovski-embellished bones.
  4. The faceted “Barbarella” bodysuit from the F/W 2009 couture Movie Stars collection
  5. Gaultier’s comic book-like costume design illustrations for such films as The Fifth Element, The City of Lost Children, and more

Gaultier left me with a lightened spirit, confident in the ability of one person to harness enough energy and imagination for 40 years (and counting) of experiments and masterpieces, paying homage to the misfits and the oddballs of the world along the way.




2 Responses to “Gaultier In San Francisco”
  1. philip salaverry says:

    hey there,

    i went 4-5 times as is my habit when something is as cool as his work is… a true artist / artisan. did you catch the video (outside the gallery spaces) of his runway show… so many dedicated people to pull off, fun to watch!

    best, philip

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