What did I just watch?
What absolutely powerful and mind-blowing creation did I just sit through?
How could I have known that I would leave the theatre with even more respect for the legendary Jean Paul Gaultier?
At the moment of me writing this post, I just got back to my apartment in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris after having seen Jean Paul Gaultier’s ‘Freak Fashion Show’ at the Folies Bergere in the 9th. This show has been two years in the making for Gaultier and was timed as a perfect precursor to Fashion Week in Paris.
This fashion-show-meets-performance tells Gaultier’s life story, starting from when he would stand in front of the Folies Bergere theatre and dream of one day manifesting all the creations in his head onto a stage. We then follow Gaultier through his teenage years and into his life as a designer. Audience members see his struggles, his first love, the loss of his first love to AIDS, how this influenced his later work, places of interest in his life that changed his lines, and even the criticism he faced at various points throughout his career.
The performers were dancers but also models, and between various scenes that included singing and dancing, the stage would become a runway to show off a total of 200 pieces designed by Gaultier just for this show! And the pieces were even better than you could ever imagine.
True to Gaultier style, the costumes were texture focused (often themed), sexy, raw, performative, and weird (but in the very best way). Between the feathers, the leathers, and the fake-tattoo bodysuits, nothing disappointed. But there was one aspect of the fashion in this show that really spoke to who Gaultier is as a person, not just a designer.
The show very much blurred gender lines and expectations. Men were in corsets, heels, and dresses. Women were in suits, short wigs, and had their chests bound. The pieces were sexy beyond belief but they were classy. There was the usual French sophistication that underlies Gaultier’s pieces, making them uniquely his. They pushed boundaries while also making people clap in awe and adoration.
One factor that is important to note is that this Freak Fashion Show was by no means a PG performance, but there were numerous kids in the audience. I don’t know, maybe the French are a little more relaxed about these things, but along with being dressed up in truly jaw-dropping, barely-there pieces, many of the models took a lot of clothing off, as well…
The finale of the show was a clip where Jean Paul Gaultier spoke about how there are numerous types of beauty in this world. Beauty is subjective and therefore cannot be boxed. Fashion should be created in a way that emphasizes the beauty of all individuals because we are all unique, we are all chic, and we are all freaks! I am still feeling completely overwhelmed by the show and can’t believe I was just a stone’s throw from the man himself.
I don’t know if Gaultier plans to take this fashion show onto an international stage, and today was the final performance in Paris as we head into Fashion Week, but if you ever get a chance to see his work or hear him speak in person, the only thing I can say is JUMP ON THAT OPPORTUNITY. I am so deeply inspired by the diversity, creativity, and passion evident in Gaultier’s pieces that I think I found a new favourite designer! Time for me to start shopping!
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Images courtesy of Claudia Amendola