Jean Paul Gaultier isn’t done. There are more movies to be inspired by, muses to court and corsets to sew.
He’s still in the prime of his career, so even with 35 years of design under his belt, there have been no retrospectives. But that’s about to change come June, when you’ll be able to see a best-of Gaultier exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
“I am very shocked to see it all _ in a good way,” says Gaultier, who is collaborating with curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot. “I feel a little strange seeing so many things in one place because I feel I am not yet done, yet it’s flattering and exciting. … You can see when it’s all together my obsessions: the corset, skin, the cinema, music. You can see the things I am always fascinated by.”
The most important thing he does each day is keep his eyes _ and his mind _ open. “My eyes aren’t in a routine to see something. I try to see everything. I like a good visual shock,” Gaultier says.
Yet, for every cone bra top and parrot-feather bolero (the parrot from whom he borrowed feathers years ago is still alive and well, he notes) is a trenchcoat and a sailor-style top.
“What struck me throughout is the evolution. He is actually very classic. He has the spirit of a punk, of a rebel, but when you see the quality of the tailoring, it’s very, very classic,” observes Loriot. “Every season, for example, is a trench or a trench dress, but it’s never boring because there’s always a new way to see it or a new way to present it.”
For example, at Wednesday’s haute couture presentation in Paris, a show dubbed “I Am an Anarchist,” the trench was done in a sleeveless dress silhouette _ in hot pink.
Gaultier’s runway truly is a stage. He paired fishnets with James Bond-inspired tuxedos for last week’s men’s show, and last year, burlesque star Dita Von Teese did a mid-show strip tease down to a bustier that outlined her bones.
He might be purposely provocative, Gaultier allows, but he’s not looking to be an all-out rebel, either.
“As a designer, I have to be functional and creative. I have to reflect society,” Gaultier says in a recent phone interview. “I always have to have my eyes open. There’s a constant evolution of fashion. I’m not like an artist, although I have to be in touch with art. But there’s also the reality of everyday life, and I have to see how it’s moving.”
Right now, as he is turning his attention to the next women’s ready-to-wear collection, Gaultier says his focus is on asking the big questions about consumers and pop culture.
“It’s a special moment right now when everything is in question. We’re wondering what we don’t need anymore. We need something solid, something basic, but some people want also what is cheap and quick,” he says. “We’re being pulled in two totally completely opposite directions, and yet Lady Gaga _ when everyone is being very politically correct _ is the real star.”
“He always says he finds inspiration in people with bad taste or who have clothing accidents. He likes to see the way they are not supposed to be presented _ and fix them the way he sees fit,” Loriot says.
The multimedia Montreal exhibit, which moves on to the Dallas Museum of Art and the de Young Museum in San Francisco next year, will feature about 120 garments from 1976 to 2010. The looks will be broken into the semi-neat categories of “Paris,” “Fusions,” Multi-Gender,” “Eurotrash/X-Rated” and “Metropolis.”