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Jean Paul Gaultier – the challenger

By Carolyn Enting

Jean Paul Gaultier – the challenger
Jean Paul Gaultier's exhibition From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is now showing at the NGV, Melbourne.

Thrillingly real best describes exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk now showing at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).

The mannequins eyes literally follow you about the room. They blink and stare directly at you before averting their gaze. At times emotions befitting of the garment they’re wearing cross their beautiful features or they’ll suddenly speak to you. It’s all a little disconcerting as well as thrillingly fabulous. As you move through the exhibition you can’t help casting an eye behind you to ensure they have not stepped off the platform to follow you.

The effect is made possible thanks to high-definition audio-visual projections. Combine these visual effects with Gaultier’s incredible designs and it is spectacular. Fans of fashion will revel in its splendour so set aside several hours to enjoy it.

NGV director Tony Ellwood sums it up. “Jean Paul Gaultier’s radical designs break down sterotypes and cliches, questioning pre-conceived standards of beauty and challenging societal, gender and aesthetic ‘norms’. The results are exquisite works of art; exuberant, witting, surprising and dramatic.”

The Boudoir is one of seven thematic sections in the exhibition which focuses on Gaultier’s fascination with lingerie and corsetry through the years, from his first cone bra designed for his childhood teddybear in the early 1960s through to conical bras and corsets made for Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition world tour. Here Dita Von Teese models a dress from his ready-to-wear spring/summer 1983 collection, photographed by Perou.

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Muses is another enthralling section. It shows how the couturier created a new ideal of beauty, beyond the established codes of fashion and society, celebrating difference by erasing all boundaries of body size, skin colour, age, religion and sexuality.

The Melbourne exhibition also includes an Australian Muses section, highlighting his relationship with Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Andrej Pejic and Gemma Ward.

Romantic gowns also abound with many from his Les Vierges (Virgins) collection featured including this Apparitions dress from his haute couture spring/summer 2007 collection (pictured below); as well as Punk Cancan which blends Parisian classicism with London Punk.

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The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk exhibition is on at the NGV, 80 St Kilda Road, Melbourne until 8 February 2015.

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