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Jean Paul Gaultier: The Best Exhibition Since McQueen

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All photos by Driely S

Sexy, daring, beautiful, artistic and a little intimidating: these words describe Jean Paul Gaultier's designs, the famous women known for wearing them, and, most relevant here, a new exhibit celebrating his work at the Brooklyn Museum. Although The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk doesn't officially open until tomorrow, we caught the show's press preview yesterday and were completely wowed by the exhibition.

If you loved the Met's groundbreaking Alexander McQueen show, you definitely need to check this out. With a similar edgy and smart aesthetic, it's the most impressive fashion museum exhibit since Savage Beauty.

Gaultier himself put in an appearance at the press preview to talk about the show. He shared that he didn't initially want to be the focus of a museum exhibit, explaining, "Clothes are made to be worn." But then he changed his mind after, thinking, "I could make something else, a new adventure. I wanted to make it come alive. I wanted to make the mannequins speak." And he did...

Yes, the mannequins in the exhibition are animated. But not in a Disney's Hall of Presidents way—these are more high tech, and spookier. Filmed faces are shown on the mannequins' faces. At first glance they actually seem alive: they smile, they talk, some sing. One looks like musician Melissa Auf der Maur. Another has the face of Jean Paul Gaultier—and that one speaks to museum goers in both French and English, and occasionally winks and flirts. Some of the mannequins' bodies move as well. One room has a constantly rotating catwalk of mannequins.

But the cutting-edge mannequins aren't the focus of this exhibit, Gaultier's dramatic clothing is. The show is divided into seven sections, groupings based on the themes of the designer's work rather than the chronological stages of his career. Each combines clothing with photos, artwork, and accessories. Things kick off with The Odyssey, which includes the couturier's trademark themes of sailors, mermaids, and religious iconography. This section includes stage costumes worn by Beyoncé and the designer's very first actual fashion design from 1971.

Next up is The Boudoir, which reveals Gaultier's fascination with lingerie. As you might guess, here you'll find Madonna's iconic corsets and bras from her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. You'll also see Gaultier's first "cone bra," which he designed as a child for his teddy bear "Nana" in the early 1960s. Happily, little Nana puts in an appearance at the exhibit.

Other standout sections include Punk Cancan, where you'll see gorgeous tartan punk-inspired couture and mohawk hair sculptures. Skin Deep, made up of clothing which gives the illusion of a second skin, nudity or a flayed human body—all displayed in a dramatic peep show type setting. And Urban Jungle, which is full of designs inspired by people and cultures from around the world, including pieces from Gaultier's Samurai collection, his Tribute to Africa collection, and his controversial Chic Rabbis collection. (Yes, the one where the female models were styled to look like male Orthodox rabbis.)

The From Sidewalk to Catwalk exhibit was initially created for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It will be the first fashion exhibit ever to show in more than ten venues throughout the world. You can catch it in Brooklyn from October 25th through February 23rd—and we recommend you definitely do. In the meantime, see 100 photos from inside in the linkstack below.
· 100 Photos of the Brooklyn Museum's Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibit [Racked NY]
· The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier [Brooklyn Museum]