Parisian national treasure and l’enfant terrible Jean Paul Gaultier is stirring the fashion pot again with his new venture, Fashion Freak Show. A cross between a show stopping spectacle of a magazine and a fashion runway, the little boy from the suburbs has invented a new kind of entertainment for fashion enthusiasts.
In The Beginning, There Was Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier was a shy child who grew up in the suburbs of Paris. His organic flair for design and fabric manipulation was evident from a young age however his timid nature, something that is hard to assimilate with the eccentric Jean Paul Gaultier we know today, hindered his projection into the industry. Eventually, Gaultier mailed his sketches and design ideas to fashion houses so he wouldn’t have to approach them face to face and his technique seemed to work on Pierre Cardin. After a brief meeting, Pierre Cardin employed Gaultier to work alongside him in between his school lessons and the rest is history as they say.
Jean Paul Gaultier never had any formal training throughout his career, he was a fast learner, acquiring his knowledge from the designers he aspired to and working with many high end design houses, Cardin included. His inspiration has always come from what he sees. What he sees on the streets, in magazines, in attitudes. His view point was particularly astute during the punk era, when he embraced and propelled this way of thinking into his designs, setting himself up to shape global trends for over four decades.
The Evolution Towards Freak Show
Gaultier, always one for shaking up the fashion industry, announced he would be stopping production of his ready-to-wear and menswear line in 2015. While the fashion industry gasped in horror, Gaultier explained it simply in a candid interview with The Associated Press when he said "too many clothes kills clothes. Fashion has changed. A proliferation of clothing. Eight collections per season — that's 16 a year." He went on to say that he felt it was necessary to end his womenswear line that had run for 38 years because he had grown tired of the relentless marketing and commercialization that now goes hand in hand with ready-to-wear. While we can’t say we don’t miss l’enfant terrible gracing the runway each season with pieces other than couture, it has on the other hand, given him time to concoct the wildly exuberant Fashion Freak Show.
Designed to be as scandalous as the headlines he once created and as provocative as his most brazen outfits put together, Fashion Freak Show is a unique production of actors, dancers and even circus artists. Together they take to the stage, building a story full of larger than life personalities through poetry and dance, absolute excess and a heavy dose of magic! The curator of this wild spectacle hasn’t forgotten his fashion roots though, with many new designs gracing the stage, made specially for Fashion Freak Show as well as some of his most iconic pieces throughout his career.
Fashion Freak Show: The Essential Details
The Fashion Freak Show frenzy started with previews on 18th September this year running up to the grand premiere of the show on 2nd October 2018 and will continue to show up to the end of December. The location for Gaultier’s Freak Show is none other than the infamous Folies Bergères on Rue Richer in the 9thArrondissement of Paris. Ideally, the 9thArrondissement is home to Paris’s high end department stores, full of luxury and class as well as the seedy yet equally historical red light district. A coincidence perhaps, that Fashion Freak Show aims to appeal to both the luxurious and the scandalous sides of the coin.
Inside, the Folies Bergères is decorated with old world, postcard worthy Parisian charm, harking back to the belle epoque with a dash of Gatsby lavishness thrown in for good measure. The foyer itself is dipped in turquoise and gold, adorned with carefully placed mirrors, opening up the hall and creating a cosmic dimension while carousel style horse statues create an elaborate centre piece, enhanced by chandeliers and vast candelabras. Meanwhile, inside the auditorium, the stage and seating are bathed in red and gold hues with ornate fixtures and cornices that are no less intricate and plush with detail than the extravagant foyer.
Set to Gaultier’s explosive soundtrack of his life, Fashion Freak Show’s playlist consists of hit songs that have inspired the designer throughout his career including everything from pop rock to punk, over to disco and everything in between. In short, fifty years of pop culture are performed in front of our eyes, the story told through exuberant personalities and insane scenography. Collaborating with industry greats such as Tonie Marshall and Marion Motin, Jean Paul Gaultier’s new spectacle has been directed and choreographed by leaders of their field to ensure it lives up to its grand party expectations. Fashion Freak Show is like a magazine come to life on the stage, pulling elements of Gaultier’s creative past together like a dream state walk through of the eccentric Jean Paul Gaultier’s vision in 3D. Breaking all the fashion rules as he has always done, we wouldn’t expect anything less from the infamous designer and his triumph of eclecticism. Pulling together a clever mix of burlesque, rock, fashion, wit and exuberance, Fashion Freak Show allows us to see inside the creative and chaotic mind of Gaultier in just over two hours. In Fashion Freak Show, we are invited to view the world through Gaultier’s eyes, while he pays homage to those who inspired him and those who continue to inspire him.
It’s important to remember the freak in Fashion Freak Show, for what would a Jean Paul Gaultier creation be if it didn’t include a little freak? From the integral story line to the subtle nuances and gestures used, they are all linked together, not ignoring controversial issues that surround the fashion industry such as plastic surgery. Fashion for Gaultier isn’t an article of clothing on a hanger, it has a pulse and that pulse is ignited by the personality who wears it, the muse.
Gaultier has been inspired by the Folies Bergères since he was a child. Upon viewing the shows and musicals performed there over the years, he gawped at the madness of the girls dancing, covered in a plethora of feathers and fishnets and he knew he wanted to be a part of that world. Now in 2018, the grand couturier, known for his radical subversive genius, will finally live his childhood dream.
Article Commissioned by Mod'Art University of Shanghai