Monday, March 26, 2012

Brilliance, Chic and a Dash of Naughty: Fashion Designer Jean-Paul Gaultier Opens Dazzling New Fashion Exhibit in San Francisco

I’ve alerted you to the delights of blockbuster fashion exhibits showcasing the designs of Yves Saint Laurent and Cristobal Balenciaga at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

Make way now for a live fashion designer—the very much alive and vividly creative Jean-Paul Gaultier.

The designer cut a swathe through San Francisco this last week—preparing his landmark museum show, charming guests at a private party in his honor in Ken Fulk’s loft (party pictures and chic guests below), dancing at the show’s opening, lecturing with Suzy Menkes, munching lunch at Zuni café (my favorite), and on Sunday returning to Paris.

I dined on truffle risotto with Gaultier at the dinner, sat enthralled through his chat with Suzy, and was fortunate to chat with him one-on-one. Join me here for a celebration of Gaultier’s talent, his brave banishing of barriers, and his witty and wild fashions. And check out Suzy Menkes’ and Gaultier’s exclusive quotes here—not to be missed. 

Pierre et Gilles, Jean Paul Gaultier, 1990
Private collection, Paris
© Pierre et Gilles/Rainer Torrado
On March 24, 2012 the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park launched The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, the first exhibition devoted to the celebrated French designer and his personal themes of “equality, diversity and perversity.”

The de Young is the exclusive West Coast venue for this critically acclaimed international exhibition. It was planned by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibition and will be on view at the de Young from March 24-August 19, 2012.

“Jean-Paul Gaultier is one of the funniest, most talented, wittiest, and funkiest fashion designers I know.” – Suzy Menkes, the greatest and hardest-working fashion journalist, the fashion editor for The International Herald Tribune 

Jean Paul Gaultier. Cages collection, Calligraphie gown
haute couture fall/winter 2008-2009
© Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier. Cages collection, Calligraphie gown (detail)
haute couture fall/winter 2008-2009
© Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier

Dubbed fashion’s “enfant terrible” from his first stunning and wickedly chic runway shows in the 1970s, Jean Paul Gaultier is indisputably one of the most important fashion designers of recent decades. Collaborating with Madonna, Helen Mirren, film directors like Peter Greenaway, and on designs for the runway and global distribution, Gaultier has followed his own path to out-there design, always with a wink. 

I love Gaultier’s avant-garde and often outre fashions that reflect an understanding and empathy and curiosity for multicultural world issues and preoccupations. He has always been shaking up—with invariable good humor—and challenging established societal, sexual, aesthetic codes. “I do not set out to shock,” he told me. “I design, I am curious about life, and sometimes my ideas shock people. That’s not so bad, no?’ 

Perou, Dita Von Teese Flaunt, 2003
Dada collection
Women’s prêt-à-porter spring/summer 1983
© Perou
‘There are real reasons why designers last—knowledge, talent, technique, skill, art, craftsmanship, creativity, ideas—and Jean-Paul Gaultier has all of them, indeed. There are not many designers like him who have changed the course of fashion history and captured a fashion moment in time.” – Suzy Menkes at her de Young Museum presentation

Virgins (or Madonnas) collection, “Lumière” gown
Haute couture spring/summer 2007
Black and stained glass print jersey and chiffon gown with cape-style sleeve
© Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier

Virgins (or Madonnas) collection, “Dolorès” gown
Haute couture spring/summer 2007
Black gloss-finish guipure top over an ivory silk tulle underskirt with large religious-motif jacquard medallion appliqués encircled by black guipure
© Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier

More of a contemporary installation than a fashion retrospective, the Gaultier exhibition—which the couturier considers to be a creation in its own right—features approximately 140 ensembles spanning over thirty-five years from the designer’s couture and ready-to-wear collections, along with their accessories.

Through discipline, technical virtuosity, a vivid imagination, and ground-breaking artistic collaborations, Gaultier offers an open-minded vision of society.

His is a crazy, sensitive, and sexy world in which everyone can assert his or her own identity, from mutable and poetic to aggressively feminine or man-in-lace.

“Clothes became my attraction and obsession early. I wasn’t so interested in dressing myself because I was not my object of desire.” – Jean-Paul Gaultier 

Jean Paul Gaultier. Parisiennes collection, Les Particules élémentaires dress
haute couture fall/winter 2010-2011
© Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier. Calligraphy collection, Labyrinth gown
Haute couture spring/summer 2009
© Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier
On full view in this extremely diverting show, Gaultier’s empathetic collections offer a curious, witty, and shoulder-shrugging vision of society.

Many of the pieces in the San Francisco show have never previously been exhibited.

Throughout the galleries, thirty unique and sometimes captivating mannequins wear dramatic wigs and headdresses by Odile Gilbert, as well as interactive faces created by technologically ingenious audiovisual projections. Startling!

“I have always been drawn to designing fashions that are rebellious, like black leather jackets on suburban kinds, a corset dress, punk, blue jeans. I love that. Fashion changes all the time, and what is considered extreme or elegant or luxurious (or not luxurious) is changing all the time.” –Jean-Paul Gaultier in conversation with Suzy Menkes 

Perou, Dita Von Teese Flaunt, 2003
Buttons collection, “Circé” ensemble
Haute couture spring/summer 2003
Black hat-gown of lace appliqué on fine straw and
black horsehair, jet pin; black lace bloomers; black fishnet tights
© Perou

Jean Paul Gaultier. Calligraphy collection, Monogramme jacket
haute couture spring/summer 2009
© Rainer Torrado/Jean Paul Gaultier

When you visit the show, expect a multi-media extravaganza complete with strange and compelling and startling animated mannequins, film loops, runway clips, imagery, sound, and video excerpts from his extensive film and music collaborations.

It’s chic, raw, glamorous, hardedge, and chaotic and presented with force and energy that portrays Gaultier’s world.

“I love and admire everyone who is different. I love that. The ‘jet set’ is banal. ‘Good taste’ is banal. Eccentricity is chic. Good taste paralyzes. But punk or street fashion or a tattoo-covered body, that is interesting to me, and that I love. I didn’t go to fashion school. I learned from watching couture shows on TV and reading magazines. That made me dream.” –Jean-Paul Gaultier in conversation 

Pierre et Gilles, The Virgin with the Serpents (Kylie Minogue), 2008
Virgins (or Madonnas) collection, “Auréole” gown
Haute couture spring/summer 2007.
Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris
© Pierre et Gilles. Courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris

Party, Party
In honor of Jean-Paul Gaultier, San Francisco interior designer / event planner Ken Fulk dreamed up a dazzling fete at his San Francisco loft, complete with Dita von Teese for after-dinner delectation. (Thank you, Juliet de Baubigny.) The party raised funds for the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums. Bravo to museum trustees.

Gaultier, charming, humorous, and gracious, brought along members of his atelier, his favorite model, Farida Khelfa, pals, his crew and his team. Lovely. I adored meeting them.

Congratulations, Ken, for planning the identical twins playing harps during dinner, and for your inspired impresario touches.

Guests included Denise Hale, Dede Wilsey, Vanessa Getty in a dramatic Gaultier Roman general-inspired black leather dress, Trevor and Alexis Traina, Juliet de Baubigny, Dita von Teese, the superb Suzy Menkes, and friends from near and far, too glamorous and fabulous to mention. 

Jean-Paul Gaultier and Vanessa Getty in Gaultier couture from Decades, Los Angeles

Becca Cason Thrash in Gaultier couture 
Suzy Menkes, Ken Fulk, Dita von Teese and Jean-Paul Gaultier

Juliet de Baubigny and Alexis Swanson

Jelka Music, global public relations director for Jean-Paul Gaultier, with Denise Hale

Dede Wilsey in Chanel 

Alexis Swanson and Ken Fulk

Dita von Teese with Avhi Ardath and Casey Jones

When he was in San Francisco recently, Jean-Paul Gaultier also made a highly successful and hotly anticipated visit to the Academy of Art University Fashion Department, under the direction of the brilliant Gladys Palmer:

Click here for a visit with Jean-Paul Gaultier and the lively and talented students of the fashion department:

Exhibition Catalogue:

Buy the Book!  The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts published a 424-page monograph, the first on Gaultier, in collaboration with Abrams.

It can be ordered through the museum.

Where to see the show:
de Young Museum
Golden Gate Park

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive
San Francisco, CA 

Social photography at Ken Fulk’s San Francisco loft, a party to benefit the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums, by Drew Altizer. Ken Fulk:

Photographs of Jean-Paul Gaultier, the exhibit and fashions courtesy SFFAS, used with express permission.


peggy braswell said...

Sooo Fabulous + JPG's fashion sense is delicious!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


I am so honored to receive the following response from Suzy Menkes, the great fashion editor and top fashion writer: Suzy has been such an inspiration and aspiration for me in my work--and I am humbled and delighted. DIANE

"I loved Reading - and viewing - this. So lively and intelligent. Great seeing you."

Kevin Connetta said...

He really is an artist. But I so admire your ability to report on this magical moment in a way that doesn't diminish the magic. -- mbwife

The Devoted Classicist said...

No men in skirts? When I opened my own firm in 1987, my first client was a true NY Fashionista. She often wore Gaultier to our meetings which was an education for me, seeing the dresses up-close in the light of day. (Most worked better standing than seated, by the way). said...

You know I too, like the street fashion and street art, I do get bored by most Art and most fashion and he seems to like the more authentic clothing from real people not the 3%..


Brillante Interiors said...

I am sure Suzy M. was also delighted seeing you and...what a party must have been. Curious to know what YOU were wearing.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hello, MBWife-
Lovely to hear from you. I so admire Suzy--and was incredibly fortunate to be seated across the table from her. Then I had tea with her and JPG last Saturday and we chatted. I read her new fashion reports every week, often multiple features, and love her textured and rich and vivid use of words.

Albarosa: I will tell you what I was wearing.
I have dark hair and turquoise/pale green eyes, pale skin (background). I was wearing a wonderful Prada black fitted jacket, black straight pants, black crocodile clutch, and my black Moleskine notebook. Manolo Blahnik snakeskin stilettos, and what caught her eye were a beautiful turquoise large round bead necklace (discovered in Jaipur), as well as a delicious light cashmere large shawl, which I had wrapped around my shoulders. She said 'Oh, your necklace and your shawl...turquoise, matches your eyes, I love your look...' It was so generous and spontaneous and gracious of her...I thought she was the top of the top. I hope you meet her. Brilliant.
cheers to you, dear friends, DIANE