Heading to the exhibition of a world-renowned French Couturier Jean Paul Gaultier at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, I was prepared to immerse myself into the world of beauty, style, and extravaganza, so characteristic of haute-couture culture. I knew that Gaultier is well-known for his audacious experimentation with styles. Knowing that his outstanding 1997 haute-couture collection brought Gaultier a colossal success and universal recognition in the fashion world and beyond, I was really looking forward to an encounter with this unique designer...
But heading to the exhibition I could not have imagined that I would be leaving under the impression that I have just met an artist of genius and seen an exhibition that was a work of art in itself.
Expecting to see a fashion showcase with static displays of designer costumes, I was stunned by the exhibits that were alive! Animated mannequins and projected faces, so different in their facial features, expressed opinions, greeted visitors and conversed to the audience, illustrating the ideas that couturier had behind his thematic installations. I was greeted and addressed by the mannequin of Jean Paul Gaultier himself; he was easy-going, wearing his beloved striped sailor’s sweater, and could not boast the best shape of teeth... He spoke to me and made it feel personal, as he shared with me personally his world perception, outlook and comprehension...
Monsieur Gaultier described his works in the first person, recalling his creative journeys. The great couturier was everywhere; he talked to me through his outstanding costumes, through his fashion photography, through live mannequins; he shared simple truths of his wisdom through the art. It was incredible!
I left the exhibition deeply convinced that Jean Paul Gaultier is more than just an haute-couture designer of a unique talent. He is one of those rare people, who look beyond the present they live in, people who possess an outstanding capacity to progressively change the world – the people of the future. For me, Hieronymus Bosch, the surrealist of XV century, “Salvador Dali of the Northern Renaissance”, was the man of the future in fine art. Peter the Great was definitely the man of the future in Russian history, as he succeeded at radically changing Russian society within a short span of his reign and provoked revolutionary progress in many spheres of social and intellectual life.
And Jean Paul Gaultier is certainly amongst the people of the future. The beauty and freedom of his world perception are revolutionary in their genial simplicity. He sees the potential for unconstrained human existence, rejoicing in who you are. Gaultier world has no borders. It unites people through their individuality and uniqueness, just like different ethnic styles marvelously intertwine together in Gaultier’s fashion masterpieces.
As I walked through the Odyssey
part of the exhibit that showcased his favorite stripes and marine theme, I thought that it is not only Gaultier’s Odyssey through the fashion world, his creative quest. It is also his metaphysical journey beyond the conventions and preconceptions of the present. Like ancient Greek Odysseus, Gaultier ventures beyond the borders to bring us the vision, which only he could reach and conceive, to invite other people into the beautiful world he discovered. The world where everyone is happy in their own skin.
Little Jean Paul Gaultier was an unusual child. He didn’t like typical “boy” games and didn’t play soccer with his peers. Yet, being different was not a flaw for him. Gaultier was blessed with amazing mother and grandmother, who had a boundless belief in his talent and supported him in all his endeavors. He is not interested in soccer, but there is probably something else more fascinating for him, something that is his true passion. Now a world-famed designer, Gaultier shares this illuminating and inspiring truth with the rest of the world.
A mannequin of a lovely woman with umbrella was eager to share her greatest joy with the visitors: I love myself. And the world is good because I love myself.
A mannequin of a black man dressed in a skirt was having a conversation with his own reflection in the mirror:- Hello!- Hello!- You look good!- You look good, too!
The mannequin represents a man who lives in the constraints of societal conventions, and these conventions don’t let him free, they choke him like a tie sitting tight on his neck. The reflection is his alter ego; it is his other self, the one who is brave enough to open up to the world.…Be everything that you are, Open yourself – relax your tie!
Corsets occupy a special place in the couturier’s work. In Gaultier’s vision, the corset manifests the freedom of woman’s self-expression. Demonstration of her strength and sensuality, it empowers her not to fear being who she really isWhoever I am, I like it.
In the Skin Deep
section, inspired by the beautiful anatomy of human body, a mannequin dressed in a sexy corset over bare muscles, arteries and veins, perfectly illustrates this philosophy:I feel comfortable in my own skin – whatever that skin is.
A week later, I am still shaken by the power of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier
. A cosmopolite, a great humanist, an artist, Jean Paul Gaultier gives an immense inspiration to so many people around the globe. It is not simply about clothes. Fashion is just a medium through which Gaultier conveys his eternal messages:Life is an illusion. Life is a game. Live it, play with it. Enjoy this game – it may be very pleasurable – but be yourself....
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