Exclusive interview with Jean-Paul Gaultier: “I’ll be back with a new Haute Couture project”

The news of the new project by Jean-Paul Gaultier, who writes: “I am happy to announce that Haute Couture will continue in a new form. The idea of ​​several designers playing a high fashion brand came to mind in the 90s for a Parisian high fashion house that had found without a stylist. I am glad that this concept becomes reality now, with Sacai’s Chitose Abe as the first guest designer. I admire your work, we have many things in common and we share a similar vision of fashion. I am happy to give you complete freedom. ” Initially scheduled for July 2020, the presentation of the Gaultier-Chitose Abe collection was postponed to January 2021, due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

The designer had announced it exclusively to Vogue Italia, in an interview of which we publish a preview below.

You can read the full version on the new issue of Vogue Italia, on newsstands from March 5.

He does not have a driving license and cannot drive: true or false? “Very true! I was rejected three times, the last one I also made an accident just missing a truck. After all, it’s better this way. I am a public danger behind the wheel, too busy observing what is around me to focus on the road. I walked a lot in the past, then I stopped. But at a certain age you have to start taking walks again … It’s good for your health ». The rascal of fashion turns 68 in April, and has the air of being in top form. Jean-Paul Gaultier has just returned from Russia – where he presented his Fashion Freak Show, an imaginative autobiographical cabaret that will also stop in Italy. The news that leaves fashion announced during her last fashion show, transformed into a joyful and sparkling farewell show, even if some tears were seen among those present. The nearly 200 looks sent on the catwalk summed up all the genius and genius of Gaultier, capable of transforming a sponge into a fluffy evening dress, belts in sexy minidress and putting corsets over the jacket. Above all, they reminded us of his role as a pioneer of inclusiveness, the fluidity of genres, the reversal of beauty standards and stereotypes, in addition to his sartorial mastery. Relaxed and, as usual, cordial, he welcomes us in the couture salon, surrounded by the clothes they have just taken off: a bit like going for a walk in his head.

Why do you leave fashion?

I have been there for 50 years, 45 with my brand, it is right to make some space for others. I like to think that I have always worked in total freedom. Always. In hindsight, I think this freedom depended on the fact that I started without a lira: when you are penniless you are the master of your destiny, there is no shareholder who tells you what to do. For me it was a great chance.

Is his a farewell or a goodbye?

It’s a goodbye because I don’t want to make collections anymore. It’s goodbye because I can’t sit still. Even if tomorrow I was alone, without collaborators or a brand, I would continue to draw like when I was a child, he is stronger than me. Inspirations are everywhere, nobody can stop me.

Yet even she, unstoppable, says that making a collection every two months is an insult to creativity.

I don’t feel like giving lessons, but there is too much of everything … We have so much, when instead we should consume less, be more frugal. Do we really need another parade in the desert? Or to hire Hollywood stars, and moreover with a contract that is not exclusive, and to pay an eye over her head to wear clothes they could buy? What a paradox!

Ah! Before, did celebrities buy clothes?

My yes. Late 80s, Madonna was a client of mine. Then Nicole Kidman … They bought it all right! But now, even the … what do they call them ?, well, the influencers are part of the equation. Everything aims to eliminate competition. Instead of trying to dominate the market, wouldn’t it be better to ask what customers want? What do they dream, what do people want today?

Do you have an answer?

I do the benchmark on myself: I am so bombarded with proposals, images, products, boutiques, clothes … here, I only see clothes! When there is too much, you no longer want anything, you no longer have desires. Society can no longer grow in this way.

Yet we are inundated with products and fakes, and copies of the fakes.

I read it as a fear of the future, which began when we “discovered” vintage and stopped looking ahead. I was also inspired by the past, I went to the flea market and found ideas. But then I made them mine. Now we are at the copy of the copy, the extreme diffusion of all the images gives us access to everything immediately … After a while you go crazy.

Who knows who lived the instant during his fashion show, I was taken as they were to photograph and film …

Yeah, where am I surprised, shock, emotion? At the fashion shows they are so busy shooting the models in front, one after the other, that they never take their backs !!! And maybe all the beauty of the dress is, in fact, behind … We should make a collection dedicated to the backs not seen in the fashion shows!

Is it true that as a child he dyed his grandmother Marie’s hair blue?

False, I made them purple! A real punk ante litteram! But it was an accident …

How much has this beloved grandmother, nurse, fortune teller and couple consultant inspired you in your spare time?

I saw corsets with a slightly pointed bra for the first time. She received ladies who asked her for beauty tips and how to win her husband back … I listened and drew: a realistic portrait of when they arrived, and then a drawing of how they were transformed after the session, inspired by Ava Gardner, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot. No, I liked Bardot less.

Because?

Because Santa Claus is an invention.

This explains it to me.

Child, I discover that Santa Claus does not exist and that at Easter the bells do not go to Rome for the blessing … So, from that moment I put everything into question: if they say that Monroe or Bardot are the most beautiful women in the world I answer no ! I prefer brunettes: Claudia Cardinale.

Brunettes or blondes, she has always loved strong women.

The example of my grandmother, my mother, the girls at school much more mature than the boys … I admired them, especially at a time when it was fashionable to say “sois belle et tais-toi”, make yourself beautiful and keep quiet. I remember the fashion reporters who spoke of “femininity”, a feminine cut, a feminine ruffle … But what does it mean? And then why did men’s jackets have an internal pocket for the wallet and those of women didn’t? Fashion spoke volumes about disparities, about who held economic power. I have tried to reverse these codes. And the cone-shaped corset was not an object of seduction, but a weapon, very well handled by Madonna. When she wears it under a male suit, the cones seem to pierce the double-breasted: she dominates. We understood each other immediately, I know she liked my clothes, which she already wore – incidentally: she bought them! (laughs) -, and our collaboration culminated in Blond Ambition Tour. He used the attributes of femininity but with the spirit of a macho.

She often says that in her fashion women have balls and men are an object.

I wanted to recreate a certain balance, empower women and imagine the man object, making real men’s collections. Italy has inspired me a lot in this regard. Contrary to the French, Italians loved to shop, they were attentive and curious about a look, a color, a cut … And then the fabrics! I love linen, it’s magnificent! Beautiful wrinkled jackets and pants, how much I miss them! I always think of hotels in Italy, where there were fabulous linen sheets. I have to make a confession: I didn’t know where to find them and I stole them!

Don’t worry, there is still a prescription.

The interest of Italians in dressing well has changed my vision of the male. So, in my own way, I took items reserved for women to put them on the man: neckline, sailor open on the back, skirts …

You were the pioneer of the right to difference by including all forms of beauty.

I wouldn’t have done what I did without Saint Laurent. Her fashion – androgyny, transparencies, affirmation of a new femininity – and her lifestyle – did not hide her homosexuality – helped and inspired me. I’ve always tried to stay honest, never wanting to shock! If you do it just to create the scandal it doesn’t work.

Top: portrait of Angus McBean

(Go on)

English Text

Read a preview of our exclusive interview with Jean-Paul Gaultier features in our March Issue on newsstands from March the 5th.
The maison has just announced that its Haute Couture collections will continue with a new concept: each season, the ‘Enfant Terrible de la mode’ will invite a designer to interpret the codes of the House and give the vision of Haute Couture. Chitose Abe from Sacai will be the first one to participate in the project and she will present the next Haute Couture collection in July 2020.

You don’t have a driver’s license and don’t know how to drive: true or false? “Very true! I failed the driving test three times: the last time I even had an accident and barely missed a truck. I know, in the end, it’s all for the best. I am a public hazard behind the wheel, too busy observing what is around me to focus on the road. I used to walk a lot in the past, then I stopped. But at a certain age you have to start taking walks again … It’s good for you. “The bad boy of fashion turns 68 in April and appears in top form. Jean-Paul Gaultier has just returned from Russia where he presented his Fashion Freak Show, an imaginative autobiographical cabaret that will also stop in Italy. He announced that he was leaving the fashion world at his last runway show, transforming it into a joyful and vibrant farewell event, even though some of the guests were teary-eyed. The almost 200 looks sent out on the catwalk summarized all the creative flair and genius of Gaultier, capable of transforming a sponge into a fluffy evening dress, belts into a sexy minidress and putting corsets over a jacket. Above all, these outfits reminded us of his role as a pioneer of inclusiveness and gender fluidity, overthrowing beauty rules and stereotypes, in addition to his sartorial mastery. Relaxed and, as usual, friendly, he welcomed us into his couture salon surrounded by the clothes the y were just shown: it is a bit like going for a stroll inside his mind.

Why are you leaving fashion?

I’ve been in fashion for 50 years, 45 with my brand; it’s fair to make room for others. I like to think that I’ve always worked in total freedom. Always. In hindsight, I think this freedom depended on the fact that I started without a penny. When you are penniless, you are the master of your destiny: there is no shareholder telling you what to do. It was a great opportunity for me.

Is this your farewell or a goodbye until we meet again?

It’s a farewell because I don’t want to make collections anymore. It’s a goodbye until we meet again because I can’t not do anything. Even if I were alone tomorrow, without assistants or a brand, I’d keep drawing as I did as a child: I can’t help myself. Inspiration is everywhere: no one can stop me.

Yet even you, unstoppable, say that making a collection every two months is an insult to creativity.

I don’t want to lecture anyone, but there is too much of everything … We have so much, when instead we should consume less, be more frugal. Do we really need another fashion show in the desert? Or hire Hollywood stars with a contract that isn’t even exclusive and pay them through the nose to have them wear clothes that they could buy? That’s absurd!

Ah! Did celebrities buy clothes in the past?

Mine, yes. In the late eighties, Madonna was a client of mine. Then Nicole Kidman … They certainly bought clothes! But now, even … what are they called? … influencers are part of the equation. Everything aims to eliminate the competition. Instead of fighting to dominate the market, wouldn’t it be better to ask what customers want? What do people dream and desire today?

Do you have an answer?

I am my own benchmark: I am so bombarded with proposals, images, products, boutiques, clothes … well, I only see clothes! When there is too much, you no longer want anything or have desires. Society can no longer grow this way.

Yet we are inundated with products and fakes and copies of fakes.

I interpret that as a fear of the future, which began when we “discovered” vintage and stopped looking ahead. I, too, was inspired by the past: I went to the flea market and found ideas. But then I made them my own. Now we are at the copy of the copy: an extreme diffusion of all images gives us access to everything immediately … After a while, you go mad.

During your show, who knows who enjoyed the moment: they were all busy snapping pictures and filming …

Yes, where is the surprise, the shock and emotion? At fashion shows they are so busy shooting the models from the front, one after the other, that they never shoot the back !!! And maybe all the beauty of the dress is, in fact, behind … There should be a collection dedicated to backs that weren’t seen in shows!

Is it true that as a child you dyed your Grandmother Marie’s hair blue?

False, I dyed it purple! She was a real ante litteram punk! But it was an accident …

How much were you inspired by your beloved grandmother, who was a nurse as well as a fortune teller and couple’s consultant during her spare time?

I saw corsets with pointy bras for the first time at her house. She received ladies who asked her for beauty tips and advice on how to win back their husbands … I listened and drew pictures: a realistic portrait of when they arrived and then a drawing of how they were transformed after the session, inspired by Ava Gardner, Sophia Loren, and Brigitte Bardot. No, I liked Bardot less.

Why?

Because Santa Claus is an invention.

Explain this to me.

As a child, I discovered that Santa Claus didn’t exist and that at Easter the bells did not go to Rome for the blessing … So, from that moment on, I questioned everything: if they say that Monroe and Bardot are the most beautiful women in the world, I say no! The prefer brunettes: Claudia Cardinale.

Brunettes or blondes, you have always loved strong women.

I had the example of my grandmother, my mother, and the girls at school who were much more mature than the boys. I admired them, especially at a time when it was fashionable to say “sois belle et tais-toi“, be beautiful and shut up. I remember the fashion reporters who spoke of” femininity “: a feminine cut, a feminine ruffle … But what does it mean? And why did men’s jackets have an inside pocket for their wallet and women’s jackets didn’t? Fashion spoke volumes about inequality and about who held the economic power. I tried to overturn those rules. And the cone-shaped corset was not an object of seduction, but a weapon handled very well by Madonna. When she wore it with a menswear suit, the cones seem to pierce through the double-breasted jacket: she dominated it.We understood each other immediately, I know she liked my clothes, which she had already worn – by the way: she bought them! ( laughs). Our collaboration culminated in the Blond Ambition Tour. She used the attributes of femininity but with the spirit of a macho.

You often say that in your fashion, women have balls and men are an object.

I wanted to recreate a certain balance, empower women and imagine the man as an object, making real menswear collections. Italy greatly inspired me in this regard. Contrary to the French, Italian men loved to shop. They were attentive and curious about a look, a color, a cut … And then, the fabrics! I love linen: it’s magnificent! Beautiful wrinkled jackets and pants: how I miss them! I always think of hotels in Italy, where there were fabulous linen sheets. I have a confession to make: I didn’t know where to buy them and I stole them!

Don’t worry, the ‘prescription period’ still exists in Italy.

Italians’ interest in dressing well changed my view of men. So, in my own way, I took elements reserved for women and put them on men: plunging necklines, sailor stripe shirts open on the back, skirts …

You were the pioneer of the right to diversity by including all forms of beauty.

I wouldn’t have done what I did without Saint Laurent. His style – androgynous, the sheerness, the affirmation of new femininity – and his lifestyle – he did not hide his homosexuality – helped and inspired me. I’ve always tried to stay honest and I’ve never wanted to shock! If you do it just to create a scandal, it doesn’t work.

Read the full interview on Vogue Italia’s March issue, on newsstands from March the 5th

Chitose Abe and Jean Paul Gaultier

© Gio_Staiano

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