Jean Paul Gaultier talks Fashion Freak Show


A cone-adorned plushie and a grandmother’s undying support: the iconic designer leaves a versatile dance legacy in his mesmerizing stage show, Fashion Freak Show.

With trends in dizzying abundance and fast fashion exploding across the high street, it’s safe to say that when it comes to the notion of a fashion icon, rich in creative thought and unafraid to push the boundaries of convention, they stand out among theirs. The crowd. A precedent that does not seem to match the craftsmanship and skill of Jean Paul Gaultier. With humble beginnings rooted in the suburbs of Paris, Gaultier, aided by a steadfastly supportive grandmother, nurtured a love of drawing and a fascination with cone bras that saw his childhood teddy bear sporting long before Madonna took off maverick’s refined design to icon status on it Blonde ambition tournament. Quickly becoming the poster child for avant-garde clothing, having blazed a trail for punk and gender-fluid runway aesthetics and taking the insights he picked up from houses like Esterel and Jean Patou and putting his own unapologetic stamp on them, he now stands as one of the most revered designers in history.

A story so rich with fascinating anecdotes like the one above is also a story that is almost impossible to do justice through written words. So to pay homage to a man so rooted in the visual and the physical, of course, there’s only one way to visit his legacy in the modern day: an all-singing, all-dancing stage show.

A magical affair I was aware of when I went to Camden’s Roundhouse for the opening night of what will be a 52-performance long run through August in the British capital, playfully named by Gaultier Fashion Freak Show it is not one to be missed. A spectacle worthy of the name, creative and sexual inhibitions are left at the theater doors as contorted bodies, aerial acrobatics and, of course, recreations of some of the designer’s most legendary tracks fill the stage as an all-singing cast celebrates his uniqueness. rise to the top of the fashion world. But while it may be a fantastical feast for the senses, that doesn’t mean the show’s gentle core didn’t steer its way. From the performance adored by Gaultier’s grandmother to the tearful revelation of the tragic death of his partner Francis Menuge, it became clear that while the bombastic glamor of the screen was a true reflection of the man who centers around, it is also an ode to his abundant heart and soul. And, with the man himself sitting among the eager audience on the show’s premiere night, I couldn’t help but glance back at him and wonder what it must feel like to see the euphoric peaks and unimaginable valleys of one’s life unfold before your eyes

Taking the time to help curate me, Jean Paul Gaultier sat down with Wonderland to talk about the inspiring nature of London’s creative freedom, the birth of Fashion Freak Show and the upcoming release of his latest fragrance, Scandal Les Parfums. Head below to enjoy our conversation with Jean Paul Gaultier…

I’ve heard you mention the ‘London Street’ and its ability to allow for creative freedom, especially when dressing. What do you think the city allows for this?
The first time I discovered creative freedom was at Pierre Cardin. I started working for him on my 18th birthday. He was a free man and always did what he wanted creatively. He taught me the value of freedom. When he wanted something I did, he told me not to stop there, but to design a piece of furniture with the same idea. I found it exciting that you could do what you wanted and not have to conform to what was considered the norm. When I moved to other houses in Paris, Esterel and Jean Patou, I found the atmosphere snobby and stuffy and that’s when I discovered London. There was still a retro mood with the fabulous Biba store; there were curvy girls who weren’t afraid to show off in tight dresses. Then a little later punk was in the air. I saw the Rocky Horror show at Kings Road before the movie. And then, it was heavily influenced by the punk movement. I would escape every weekend to London and it was like a breath of fresh air. I even thought of moving, but my job was in Paris and I couldn’t leave it.

I have to find a moment to talk to you about the iconic fashion show of the last! What a show it was! How did the vision for the show come to fruition?
Even though it was my retirement from fashion, I didn’t want it to be sad in any way, I wanted it to be a celebration of my 50-year career in fashion and I wanted it to be at the Chatelet Theater where I saw my first show when I was six years old with his grandmother. I invited, as models, friends I’ve worked with over the years – models I’ve known from the 70s and 80s, new friends, actors, ballerinas, Boy George and Catherine Ringer who sang – there were a hundred and fifty. models, more than 200 views, it was all a joyous mess and I surprised myself by relaxing and enjoying it all. The idea was to say goodbye to fashion and show how much I loved it and how happy I was to be a part of it for so many years.

I can imagine that your life has changed a lot since you left home! When was the moment you knew it was time to leave?
I’m attracted to fashion, but I’m not retired. I have so many new projects at the moment that sometimes I feel like I work harder than before. But at some point I felt that the fashion has changed and that I had a hard time finding the freedom that I had in my early days and throughout my career. It’s become a competition between the big groups, marketing and advertising, and I don’t really care about that. Also, I felt that the time had come to leave my place to the younger generations. That’s why my name lives on in high fashion through collaborations with the next generation of designers. I had this idea a long time ago, in the early 90s when Christian Lacroix left Jean Patou to create his own house. I suggested to the then owners of Patou to have a different designer every season from a new generation like Mugler, Alaia and myself. This never came to fruition but, thirty years later, my idea finally came to fruition and there are now three designers who have presented a fashion show under my name.

While you may have moved away from home, that doesn’t mean you’ve stopped channeling your creativity into projects, most notably in Fashion Freak Show. Let’s discuss how this show came about! What inspired you to set up such an exhibition? What can viewers expect?
Before I saw the movie Falbalas by Jacques Becker, who inspired me to work in fashion and become a designer as the main character in the film, I had seen the premiere of the Folies Bergere on TV. I was so amazed by the girls in feathers and fishnets that I drew them in class the next day. My teacher caught me and made me do a round of classes with the drawing stuck to my back. But the opposite of a punishment happened. I wasn’t very popular at school because I wasn’t good at sports, but suddenly everyone wanted me to draw something for them. I realized that they could love me through my work. So since then, I always dreamed of doing a magazine and the time came in 2018 when Fashion Freak Show premiered at the Folies Bergere in Paris. I thought about what the theme of this show could be and decided to tell my life story as that is what I know best. I’m not good at writing, so I made the script visually – I was describing it. And I chose music with Nile Rodgers that was important to me at different stages of my life. Marion Motin did the choreography and the late Tony Marshall co-directed with me. Again, I asked my friends to help me – Rossy de Palma, Catherine Ringer, Line Renaud, Catherine Deneuve… Of course, there is a big part in London and Antoine de Caunes, my friend from Eurotrash, shows up.

You’re certainly known for your unconventional designs, but you’ve also made quite a name for yourself in the perfume world! What first inspired you to explore fragrance creation?
It was part of my haute couture dream; Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin couldn’t have achieved fame without a fragrance to go with it. Long before it was financially possible, my partner, Francis Menuge, invented a mixture that mixed, among other things, candy floss and chocolate. I liked it a lot, it was like an aperitif for children, very sweet that as soon as you drink it, you want a second and then a third, etc.

Do you have a favorite scent that you have created over the years? If so, why is it your favorite? You also have Scandal Les Parfums dropping, and the story is full of desire, sex appeal and seduction! Would you say that these themes are core themes in your creative ethos?
My first fragrance, Classique, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year, is iconic and still very modern. I was inspired by my grandmother’s rice powder which she used in abundance as well as her rice pudding. A mixed scent now dominated by Vanilla.
Scandal Les Parfums are lavish and extravagant; they are an erotic milefeuille with caramel as a common ingredient for the feminine and the masculine… addictive! Each fragrance is associated with sensuality, much more than a piece of clothing. The scent is the skin. I’ve always wanted to have fun with my creations, play with overlays and layouts, and see past traditional codes. Men’s skirts from my 1985 collection, Madonna’s iconic corset in 1990 for Blonde ambition tour, Naomi Campbell’s topless catwalk in 2002 and many more. Beautiful sexy curvy women, ethnic women, androgynous women. I don’t just want to have a specific image of a woman in my shows, I want to present what really exists. And the same for men. I also like to show attitude.

You have also chosen Parker Van Noord and Imaan Hammam as the faces of the fragrances! What made them suitable for this particular campaign?
Parker and Iman are the perfect modern couple; it’s a story about desire. She, an incomparable fist and bottomless legs. He, glowing dimples. It’s a love match.

It’s no secret that you’ve worn some of the biggest style icons from past and present, including Madonna, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian. But I want to know, who would you name as your ultimate muse?
When I design I think about different women, I don’t like to limit myself to one muse. Of course, my relationship with Madonna at the time Blonde ambition The tour will always remain in my heart as we were two people who understood each other and were on the same wavelength.

And finally, I want to know, what do you hope your future holds?
Lots of great stuff, I hope. I’m looking forward to the new January couture collaboration, but also many other projects I’ve started that you’ll be hearing more about soon.





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