Although Jean-Paul Gaultier and myself are at the complete opposite ends of the fashion spectrum we did find some common ground – albeit briefly – outside the Artist Entrance to London’s Queen Elizabeth hall last week. The French fashion icon’s ‘eccentric, eclectic and erotic’ FASHION FREAK SHOW made its UK debut at the Southbank venue for a short thirteen performance residency.
Originating at the Folies Bergere in Paris, it is Jean-Paul’s staged autobiography, celebrating 50 years of pop culture through the eyes of this charismatic and influential Frenchman, known for his characteristic irreverent avant-grade style dating back to the early 1980’s, when he was labelled fashion’s ‘enfant terrible.’ Jean-Paul challenged the standard views of fashion to cement his place in its history, establishing a haute couture and pret-a-porter empire, including high fashion luxury goods and perfumes.
Some of his signature creations are the ‘Man-skirt’ and the infamous conical bra worn by Madonna in the 1990’s. Jean-Paul grew up in a Paris suburb, where he was introduced to the fashion world by his maternal grandmother, Marie Garage. Without any formal training in fashion design, he would, from an early age send sketches to stylists he admired. Pierre Cardin was one of the first major designers to recognise his talent and hired him as an assistant in 1970.
He recently told Vogue “even if it doesn’t look like it, I’m quite shy. I like privacy. It seems strange shy people do the most exaggerated things.”
In her Guardian review of the FASHION FREAK SHOW, Lyndsey Winship wrote, “A fabulous fiesta of fabric and flesh… as much a celebration of bodies and sensuality and sexual freedom… a famously fun romp through the French designers life and career,”
Jean-Paul signed my sketch, as he arrived on the opening night at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.