To coincide with his Fashion Freak Show at the Folies Bergère in Paris, the beloved designer explains how he created the show, giving a true summary of its numerous facets. This was a chance for the eternal ‘enfant terrible’ of fashion to talk about his favourite aspects, his encounters and his challenges…
“The idea of a show that combines magazines, fashion and more has come naturally over the years. I’ve always loved shows, the stage, and this particular atmosphere. I probably wouldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for the catwalk. I conceived the show visually, imagining a succession of ‘paintings’ that tell not just my life story but also my journey in fashion and creation. The idea is to show the behind-the-scenes bit which, a bit like a jacket lining, is often as beautiful as the main event.”
2. The Folies Bergère
“The runway has been my stage for a long time and my first memory is probably an operetta at the Châtelet, Rose de Noël (directed by Maurice Lehman in 1958), which I watched on TV with my grandmother when I was a little boy. Then, again on TV, I saw an excerpt from a revue at the Folies Bergère, and I began to dream that my teddy bear Nana was a fashion editor. I liked the heroines of these scenes: Zizi Jeanmaire transformed into a bird of paradise by Yves Saint-Laurent – which I had the chance to see during my career debut – and Joséphine Baker in her last show at the Bobino, a week before her death.”
“The idea was to display my vision of fashion, by linking Tod Browning’s film masterpiece with The Rocky Horror Show (created by Richard O'Brien) which I first encountered in London in the 70s. My ‘freaks’ to me have been there since I started: I’ve always dressed tall and short, thin and curvy, young and old. I tend to prefer ‘real women’ to their stereotypical ‘delicate flower’ image!”
4. The stars
“With celebrities (Gaultier has dressed Madonna, Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue and designed costumes for films by Luc Besson and Pedro Almodóvar) or directors, I’m entirely at their service and whim – whereas here, it’s different. It’s for me, I’m the only master on board, and I can be exactly what I am: a designer telling his story. My aim has never been to be in the limelight, and even though I’ve had to learn to own the stage a lot of the time through my work, I think that on this occasion – as on a catwalk show – my place is primarily behind the scenes.”
A show like no other, Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Fashion Freak Show mixes musical comedy, circus performances, theatre and fashion. Gaultier collaborated with big names such as Catherine Deneuve and Rossy de Palma, who lend their voice and image; Nile Rodgers, producer and musical director; Tonie Marshall, show director; Marion Motin, dancer and choreographer; duo Pierre and Gilles, photographers and set designers; and Anna Cleveland, American supermodel.
The Fashion Freak Show runs until 31 December 2018 at the Théâtre des Folies Bergère in Paris. Click here to book tickets.