Jean Paul Gaultier takes Holland by storm!

From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is the evocative title of the Jean Paul Gaultier retrospective exhibition that is currently showing at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam.


It is the first time the French designer has showed in the Netherlands, although it has already been shown in seven different cities across the globe; with the Dutch being so responsive to his early fashions, along with the Brits and the Japanese, this is sure to be a sell out.


Showcasing pieces from his 35 years as a designer, including examples from his most popular, shocking and inventive men’s and women’s collections, must have been a challenge for the curator. With so many memorable moments, seasons, celebrity fans, Thierry Loriot, curator of the Montreal Fine Arts museum surely had his work cut out for him! However been working with Gaultier since the exhibition’s conception and has managed to create a personal, educational and emotional journey through the designer’s life, including highlights and snippets from many of his celebrity friends and fans (and yes you do get to see the infamous Madonna conical bra!)


Technologically innovative, the exhibition is more like a show, as it uses static mannequins with the original catwalk model’s faces projected onto the heads! Thus enabling the viewer to interact with the exhibition. Cleverly, the roving eyes seem to follow the spectator around the gallery, engaging, teasing and drawing him into their intimate recollections and secrets. With hushed commentary, it is impossible not to step close and listen.


It’s the realness of people that Jean Paul is very attracted to, claiming throughout his design career, the models he chose for his muses and shows were not the usual stereotypical ideal. Hence the use of shorter/ not so skinny/ tattooed / models in his shows. As a groundbreaker in this sense, his fashion becomes ‘fusion couture’ where anything is possible!

Maybe this has something to do with his fashion apprenticeship…with an affinity to design from a young age, Jean Paul was heavily influenced by his grandmother; Who by all accounts is not a usual fashion designers muse! Obsessed by her corsets, he began drawing his own deigns for girls which got him into trouble at school, but fearless and undeterred, his career in fashion began.


With such a colourful history to follow, notably as a TV presenter with a huge personality on late night magazine show Eurotrash, in the 1990’s, pioneering the nautical stripe (which is one of his trademarks and he still wears today!) and famously dressing Madonna in her conical bras for her Blonde Ambition Tour. He has become a household name even if you are not a fan of his fashion.


With the moniker of ‘Enfant Terrible’ his reputation has been fickle with the Press and buying public, however nobody can deny he has been a creator with a vision, and all his collections have inspired generations of designers making him and his huge personality, a true fashion legend.


The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier is a must for anybody with an interest in fashion or popular culture. With photographs, illustrations, costumes (loaned from Spanish film maker Pedro Almodovar), and his samples from his original catwalk shows, more than 140 original creations, from Gaultier’s haute couture collections rub shoulders with his ready-to-wear line, and the exhibition also pioneers a moving catwalk.


The exhibit opens to the public Sunday and runs until May 12.

Kunsthal Museum, Westzeedijk 341, 3015 AA Rotterdam, Netherlands

By Sara Darling