From the sidewalk to the catwalk

Last month, I was in New York City, as I mentioned in this blog post. One of the reasons I was there was to see ”The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk“ at the Brooklyn Museum, which recently closed on February 23rd. I’d never been to the museum, and after “Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion” came to PEM, I was interested in the ways fashion can be displayed in the exhibition format. If you saw Future Beauty here, the Gaultier exhibition is in many ways the polar opposite.


The obvious differences between the two exhibitions can be seen in the snapshots I took on a moderately busy Saturday afternoon.  The Gaultier show is dark, densely packed, and very much infused with the personality of the subject.

The Gaultier show (and it is a show) is very idiosyncratic, and very personal. From the moment you enter the first gallery, you’re assaulted (and I don’t mean that pejoratively) with light, sound and animus. Having not read any of the reviews, I was not prepared for the sea of talking mannequins I encountered. Many of the outfits are on full body mannequins onto which are projected videos of models smiling, winking, talking, singing. Gaultier himself is there in the form of a mannequin with his trademark haircut and a projection of his face welcoming you to Brooklyn.

gaultier lineup

The lineup.

gaultier mannequin

My favorite mannequin projection in the first gallery of costumes. When it worked, the effect was unearthly.

gaultier projectors

So. Many. Projectors.

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One of my favorite costumes. The exhibition design had very minimal platforms so you could get right up next to the pieces, which almost always rewarded close inspection.  For many of the outfits, the label told you how many hours it took to make. For some of them, like the corsets made entirely out of the rows of lace webbing, it was impressive to read how many hours went into its creation.


Their solution to letting you see all sides of the costumes was to mount many of them on rotating stands.

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The gallery with the gigantic projection of the New York skyline at night was an interesting blend of dark and light.


To give that “You are there” feeling, there is actually a catwalk with outfits moving up and down the aisle while the music thumps and the spotlights flash back and forth across the outfits parade past you.

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A real standout to me was this Native American inspired outfit. It was one of the few white objects in a sea of black. I took this to show Karen Kramer Russell, our Native American curator, whose working on plans for a Native American fashion exhibition right now.

After making it through the galleries, I thought back on the experience. In comparison to Future Beauty, Gaultier had seemed brash, loud, a little over-the-top, and pretty sensational, just like Gaultier and his fashions. “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” was worth the trip to Brooklyn.

One Comment

  1. Gail says:

    Sorry I missed this. You make it sound like a once-in-a-lifetime art experience for all the senses.

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