Living Legend: Jean Paul Gaultier

When you hear the name Jean Paul Gaultier, you may think of Madonna’s bustiers, nautical stripes, or perfume bottles shaped like a woman’s figure (cone bra included), or you may not recognise the name at all. No matter your current understanding of him, Jean Paul Gaultier is one of fashion’s living legends. Designing collections since the 70’s, Gaultier has been the mastermind behind many fashion movements, and is often referred to as the saviour of Couture. Gaultier is also described as “Frencher than French”, with continual French influence and obvious Parisian references in each of his collections. For all of these reasons and more, Montreal’s Musée des Beaux-Arts is celebrating Gaultier’s 35 years in the business by showcasing his most memorable designs.

Having hosted the works of Yves Saint Laurent and Denis Gagnon in past exhibitions, Montreal’s Musée des Beaux-Arts is no stranger to high fashion. I visited the exhibit this weekend and was amazed by the couture before me and the power with which it is presented. Upon entering the exhibit, you’re greeted with a myriad of Gaultier’s signature stripes, but as you approach, the mannequins seem to come alive. Not figuratively, but literally. While the bodies of the mannequins are as you would expect, the faces are projected from above, giving the figures the ability to blink, speak and even sing. It sounds creepy, and it is for about 10 minutes, until you begin to marvel at the models in all their splendour. It seems to bring the clothing to life.

If you’re headed to Montreal anytime soon, or you’re a fellow resident, I highly suggest taking a trip to the museum and spending the $15 it costs to experience a little taste of French Couture and fashion history (the exhibition ends October 2). If you don’t get the chance to take a visit, here’s a preview of Gaultier’s work. To all those concerned about spoiling it, I promise these pictures are nothing compared to the real thing, and it’s only a small taste (or just stop scrolling!).

As Gaultier explains, “At first, I did not want to do an exhibition because for me a retrospective is for a funeral—and I am alive! But instead of putting it together chronologically, it is almost like a new collection.”

Madonna's legendary conical bra was a Gaultier innovation

Dita Von Teese ends the show with the designer

Jean Paul Gaultier's signature stripes

Marion Cotillard in JPG at the 2008 Oscars, when she won Best Actress

Bustiers galore.

Impeccable lace detailing.

The rotating runway.

Click here for more information on the exhibit.

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