Arts, Fashion

BLOG: Jean Paul Gaultier

Former model Thierry-Maxime Loriot is one of the creative minds behind The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at the Barbican in London. At the launch of the exhibition the French-Canadian spoke to us about the curation process for a show of such scale. What drew you to this project in the first place?

TML What Gaultier brought to fashion is very important. In terms of the strong social message in his work, he offered an open vision of society – something that no other designer had done before. I don’t think museums do exhibitions about designers or subjects, it’s about an artist, about a vision. I think Gaultier is an artist. The exhibition is a contemporary installation, rather than a retrospective. It’s been a fun project to work on. Given the size and volume of this exhibit, there must have been some challenges.

TML The real challenge was in the editing process. What not to show. I would love to show all the archives but he has maybe 10,000-15,000 pieces, probably even more than that. He has couture, ready-to-wear, stage costumes… cutting down was sometimes heartbreaking. Gaultier has a special relationship with London, how have you incorporated that?

TML The exhibition travels a lot, so in London we added many more costumes from the punk era, as well as Amy Winehouse and David Bowie looks. It’s fun that the exhibition travels, we can adapt it every time. Do you have a favourite piece?

TML I really like the puppet from [the 1980s satirical show] Spitting Image because it is the first time that it has been exhibited. It took years to restore. But in terms of clothes I’m always fascinated when I see Madonna’s stitch costumes and the other couture pieces, like the leopard skin dress that in fact is not leopard skin but glass beads. It took 1,600 hours to make. Does the exhibition follow a linear narrative or is it thematic?

TML It’s a chronological retrospective, because he has so many strong themes in his work, from Boudoir to Sailors. The Boudoir for example is a section of Gaultier’s passions and obsessions. There is one gallery dedicated to corsetieres, where you learn about Gaultier as a child when he discovered corsets, feathers and movies for the first time with his grandmother Marie. He saw a corset and asked her what it was, she explained that women wear it to make their waist teeny tiny and he was fascinated by that. How involved was Gaultier in the curation process?

TML It was very much a dialogue between us, we would share ideas about why I would love certain pieces or why we wouldn’t do certain things. It was a real collaboration. We went to the archives together, and I met 50 of his collaborators from Madonna to Catherine Deneuve to Pierre et Gilles and Stéphane Sednaoui – people who really worked with him closely over the years. What would you like visitors to take away from the exhibition?

TML I hope people will understand what he brought to contemporary fashion in terms of a social message. The idea that you can be different and you can be beautiful. You don’t have to be a six foot tall, blonde bomb shell to be beautiful. You can be short, you can be voluptuous or you can be transgender and be beautiful.