“I love leafing through newspapers, less so digital magazines” – Jean Paul Gaultier

“I loved the theatrical aspect of fashion. I think if it weren’t for that, I would have pursued theatre.”

Perhaps for this reason, after bidding farewell to haute couture, Jean Paul Gaultier doesn’t relinquish the adrenaline of the spotlight and the energy of applause that signify the realisation of hitting the mark once again. And his Fashion Freak Show, now on a world tour, arrives in Milan for its only Italian stop scheduled at the Teatro Arcimboldi from March 7th to 24th. A spectacle, a fashion show, and a concert combined, the latest creation of the enfant terrible of fashion brings together actors, dancers, and circus artists in an eccentric, exuberant, and provocative show, inviting the audience behind the scenes of the designer’s world made of excess, extravagance, and magic.

He opens a small door to this world when we meet him in the theatre foyer for the presentation of the show, in which he curates artistic direction, costumes, and direction. Starting from his childhood and the beginning of his career, Jean Paul Gaultier now retraces his years as a designer, transporting the audience into an irreverent and nonconformist universe that respects (or rather breaks) all the rules of couture. “As a child, I didn’t play football; I always drew, and I was shy, solitary. I was an only child, so I lived in my world. I watched television, and once I saw a movie about this couturier, Falbalas, and I decided I wanted to be a designer.”

Thus begins his journey into the world of fashion, where he soon chooses his idols and learns their secrets. “I loved Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons. I liked Moschino a lot; I recognised his fun, ironic, modern spirit. As a child and teenager, I also watched the couture of the time, like Roberto Capucci. He was an artist because he was very abstract. A bit like Balenciaga. And I admired the Italians, like Pietro Cardini, who had a very subtle sense of colour.”

Through the lens, needle, and thread of Jean Paul Gaultier, the show recounts his early years as a couturier, highlighting his personal vision of society and fashion. “In many of my collections, the man is the object and the woman the macho. I imagined them like that to celebrate the historical moment when women began to become aware of their freedom, not wanting to seduce only men but also themselves.”

A veil of sweet melancholy cannot help but be drawn to the designer’s face when he thinks back to his early days in the field, including his debut on the runway. “The music would start for the show, and the girls, who weren’t even models, weren’t dressed. It was total chaos, but it was the first time. After that, I continued, even after Francis’s death, which was one of the most tragic moments of my life because he was my dream.”

The show also pays homage to all those artists and creatives who, over the years, have crossed paths with the designer, inspiring him and contributing significantly to his art. Including, for example, the encounter with Madonna, with whom he has always shared a special relationship. “I saw her for the first time on Top of the Pops,” he recounts, “she was singing Holidays, and I thought ‘what a girl!’. I became her fan immediately. When I finally met her, I said something I had never said to anyone ‘Instead of copying my corsets, can I make them for you?’.”

Naturally, the clothes also take centre stage, with re-editions of cult looks and creations tailored for the show. “Some costumes were made specifically for this show. For example, the maxi Marinière was invented to explain what unity is. Some pieces are taken from my archives, but most have been modified to fit the choreography because they were complicated to wear for dancing. Others are taken from my old ready-to-wear and couture, like the camouflage dress, which is very theatrical.”

There is also a special consideration for the soundtrack, with a selection of tracks ranging from disco to funk, pop to rock, new wave to punk, chosen from his personal playlist, the same one that served as the soundtrack for long days in his studio, his biggest fashion shows, and wild nights at Le Palace or in London. “I chose Neil Rodgers. There’s nothing better for fashion than Le freak c’est chic. Freak has two meanings. It means crazy, but in French, it also means monster, and in a sense, we are all monsters. That’s because there’s not just one type of beauty; there are many. And beauty can be found wherever you want to see it. So, we have to keep our eyes open to find it. And then it’s the symbol of a disco. I didn’t want something dramatic, but on the contrary, I wanted to include all the joy. My profession is the dream I had as a child. So for me, it’s joy, it’s like playing. And I’ve been lucky enough to play professionally all my life.”

Now he feels he must share and give back the fortune, giving new fashion talents the opportunity to experiment and emerge. “I came up with a concept that involves asking a different designer every year to take care of the couture collection. It’s a pleasure for me to see how other creatives interpret my brand. I don’t want to impose myself; I leave total freedom. Young designers must have the opportunity to break everything if they want to; they shouldn’t be too respectful. In fashion, respect is fine for a while, but then you have to find something else to say and do.”

With a show like this, it is natural to wonder if the designer misses the sparkle and allure that runways, fabrics, and yarns have always exerted on him, perhaps teasing him into a grand return. But his answer comes promptly: “Fashion has been my life, but I decided to end it with a smile. I still follow it now, and I always like it. I love to see what others are doing, to flip through the newspapers, less so the digital magazines. I cut out pages with beautiful photos.”

However, it would be wrong to think that Jean Paul Gautier now wants to dedicate himself exclusively to rest and reading tabloids, and after the Fashion Freak Show, he is already thinking about his next project. “I’m currently working on an animated film. I’m in charge of the artistic direction of this film, which will be about fashion. It will be released soon, and I will enrich the script with anecdotes, curiosities, what happens backstage, and behind the scenes.” Because the enfant terrible has not finished saying his piece yet.

This article was syndicated from Marie Claire Italy
Translated and adapted by Praise Vandeh, Marie Claire Nigeria Content Writer


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