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Famed for his love of a trompe l’oeil, the mischievous trickery of Jean Paul Gaultier’s designs is part of their main attraction. From body suits that make the wearer appear naked, to fake tattoo sleeves, Gaultier loves to subvert our expectations of fashion and make us see things that are not really there.When I finally I got around to visiting The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (on the closing night no less), it was this aspect of his designs that really struck me. Like a man who is perpetually sniggering on the inside, Gaultier is deliberately provocative but innovative with his creations, leaving both wearer and viewer giddy and unsure of what to expect next.

When I finally I got around to visiting The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (on the closing night no less), it was this aspect of his designs that really struck me. Like a man who is perpetually sniggering on the inside, Gaultier is deliberately provocative but innovative with his creations, leaving both wearer and viewer giddy and unsure of what to expect next.

From the moment I entered the exhibition, and a Breton striped mannequin turned and winked at me, I was completely unnerved. I almost ran off in rosy-cheeked embarrassment, when I realised that the precocious lothario was a projection and not a real person.

As I stumbled through the labyrinth of garments, I moved from a magical land of mermaids to a salacious chamber of BDSM; finally ending up in an eerie, mirrored room with snippets of Almodóvar films playing silently in the background. The dizzying range of inspirations Gaultier draws from is just another aspect of his bewildering creative talents and I was dazzled by this seeming glimpse into the famed couturier’s imagination.

Like his work, Gaultier’s exhibition was an assault on the senses. Little surprises and double-entendres hid around every corner, images of sex and opulence studded the gallery as the years of one man’s passion unravelled themselves to be admired and disbelieved by all who viewed them.


Combining the shocking and the beautiful is one of Gaultier’s most favoured creative tropes. He de-familiarises our notion of haute couture while simultaneously drawing us in with creations that are equally exquisite and incongruous. A brashly butchered leopard stitched to the front of a ball gown is actually an intricately beaded panel of sensational craftsmanship. The exposed veins and organs of a woman are in fact glittering sequins sewn onto nude mesh to create a trick of the eye that both repulses and amazes.


Gaultier makes us see beauty where there is ugliness, opulence where there is poverty and haute couture where there are rags. As I made my way breathlessly out of the gallery I was like Alice tumbling out of wonderland; the exhibition a surreal world of inverted ideas that were as glorious as they were disconcerting.

The Fashion Advocate x

The Fashion Advocate Australian made fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands, Melbourne fashion blogger

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