Les seins et les culs: Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show @RoundhouseLDN
Is it a fashion show? Is it a cabaret? Is it a celebration of Jean Paul Gaultier’s work? Does it matter? Well, it’s a little bit of all of the above. Music, fashion, video projections, and dance collide in this slick and sexy profile of the world of Jean Paul Gaultier over the past five decades. With over 400 costumes, acrobats, singers, dancers, projections and a throbbing soundtrack, it’s a world where beauty is everywhere. And excess, raunchiness and a little bit of breast and buttock are de rigueur.
It even smelled like him. His fragrances wafted throughout the Roundhouse on the gala press night earlier this week, with the various reviewers, influencers and fashionistas grabbing the free samples in the toilets and spritzing them about so that you were living and breathing Jean Paul Gaultier.
First presented at the Folies Bergère in Paris in 2019, it has made it to London with a few updates, such as a catwalk. Lights, music and digital projections overwhelm the senses that sometimes it’s difficult to know where to look. Dancing, singing and circus acrobats add to the spectacle.
Along the way, there is also some insight into his life. We learn that Madonna wasn’t the first to wear his conical bra. It was his teddy bear. This story then transforms into a dance routine of dancing bears with conical bras. Only for them to turn around to reveal they are dancing, hairy, hyper-masculine bears of a different kind. It seems like a perfectly logical step in the world of Jean Paul Gaultier.
Other influences, such as the television of his childhood, and the Folies Bergère, are highlighted, as are his collaborations with directors Pedro Almodovar and Luc Besson.
But while his conical bras and fantastic creations may be the signature items of this enfant terrible of the fashion world. My most vivid memory of Jean Paul Gaultier was watching him eat three desserts with a friend at a chic French seaside town. Not recognising who he was and having just finished a fabulous and filling lunch, I think the reaction to anyone having so many treats in one sitting was akin to gawking enough for his friend to break the ice and offer to buy us one. Well, at least that’s what I recall. But in a way, perhaps it sums up his life and his show here. A fabulous assault on all senses and entirely over the top. Why have one of anything when you can have three?
Jean Paul Gaultier’s The Fashion Freak Show continues at The Roundhouse until 28 August.
Photos by Mark Senior