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  • Fiona Prior

Jean-Paul Gaultier: Freak & Chic

Jean-Paul Gaultier: Freak & Chic (France, 2019)

Director: Yann L’Hénoret

See the documentary ‘Jean-Paul Gaultier: Freak & Chic’ and all you’ll want to do is watch the stage show. Unfortunately, it is in Paris so you need to be keen …

Gautier was one of the celebrity fashion superstars who emerged in the 80s. His extraordinary and theatrical designs were on the backs – and fronts (think Madonna’s iconic spiky bras) – of every chic performer and talking head in the western world, along with anyone else who could access his clothes. The rest of us just put on our Bonds singlets, ripped tights and little black boots, over-bleached and/or spiked our hair and felt like superstars!

I might note that a Gaultier creation - his original street chic at least - was just a little bit too fabulous to be confused with its earlier, more nihilistic relative of British punk, though Gaultier could well have been Vivienne Westwood’s exotic younger cousin. And in Australia we didn't have an economy that genuinely would make us want to rip up the world along with out T-shirts ... though we did sense the hopelessness and fury of those who felt they had no future in this world.

Anyone who saw ‘The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’ at National Gallery of Victoria 2014 will also appreciate that this creator has never been bothered to curtail his exuberance to fit the constraints of his environments. In ‘From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’, Gaultier’s mannequins circled the gallery on carousels so you felt like you were front seat at Paris Fashion Week; and his Mermaid, Queen and Madonna (the religious variety)-style gowns were so opulently detailed you just gawked at the attention to detail.

The exhibition's static mannequins educated the gallery visitors – in conversation, no less – about the changing face of fashion. These life-size plastic dolls explained the historic evolution of certain styles and certain attitudes, giving particular attention to men’s attire. They described the journey from male dandy to ‘white shirt and tie’ deadly dull ... to the eventual emergence of a more vibrant style escaping the shackles of the ubiquitous blue tie closet. If Gaultier can bring all this excitement and insight to an exhibition imagine what his ‘Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show’ will be!

I forgot to add that the stage show is an autobiographical account of JPG but really, it is yet another delightful dimension of the actual Jean-Paul Gaultier real-life show; amazing to look at, full of quirk, vitality and joy, and complete with the ability to dance … in impossible shoes!

I loved the documentary. Saving up my pennies to see the stage show!

The documentary ‘Jean-Paul Gaultier: Freak & Chic’ is part of Sydney’s French Film Festival – right now!

The ‘Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show’ is alas not showing in Sydney but you can catch the performance in Paris at Le théȃtre des Folies Bergère until 06/06/2019. Go if you can!

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