Jean-Paul Gaultier curates fashion exhibition: ‘I’ve always been a feminist’

women's red coat

Paris – Jean Paul Gaultier, who has achieved almost everything in fashion since his retirement last year, is now open to new possibilities. He has curated an exhibit in Paris about the power of women. It features screen icons such as Marilyn Monroe and this year’s Palme d’Or winner, “Titane”, who was once considered “enfant terrible” in French fashion.

We spoke with the 69-year old on a tour of the exhibition. “I wanted to showcase the evolution of women in fashion and cinema. Women becoming more powerful and free, while men become more feminine.”

women's red coat

“Cinemode” opens at the Cinematheque Francaise on Wednesday. It features hand-picked clips, photos, and costumes. Gaultier himself has been a cross-over artist in fashion and film, designing costumes for Pedro Almodovar (Spanish auteur), and “The Fifth Element”, a sci-fi movie from 1990.

He loves icons from the 1950s and 1960s, such as Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Barrot. He said that Brigitte Bardot, a modern, free woman of the same era as Marilyn, was Marilyn’s female-object par excellence. Bardot is seen dancing wild in “And God Created Woman” when he stops. He exclaims with glee, “This was demented for 1950s!” Bardot’s pink-chevroled wedding dress is also a favorite of his: “She had an amazing fashion sense.”

“A new stage”

In January 2020, Gaultier shocked everyone when he announced that he was retiring after half a century at top of fashion. Gaultier invites a young designer each season to create a haute couture collection for his house, but he wants new challenges.

It’s a new stage. He said that he doesn’t want to be a fashion designer anymore. “It feels like I’m creating my own collection. It’s a new adventure that combines fashion and cinema. The theme is the mixture of styles, the poor with the wealthy, the working class with aristocracy and the extremes meeting to create new babies.”

grayscale photo of three women standing and sitting on rocks

The collection keeps an eye on popular culture and includes images from “Titane”, a Palme-winning horror film about a woman who seeks revenge on men. Gaultier said, “It’s an enormously well-made movie that shows a powerful woman in very modern ways.”

It also includes 1945’s film “Paris Frills”, which was directed by Jacques Becker. This film set Jean-Paul on the path to success. “That was my bible.” He said that he didn’t go to fashion school so it was his education – a wonderful portrait of the world couture. “There was a catwalk and all the people were cheering. I thought, ‘I want that job!'”

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