Jean Paul Gaultier in Cinematheque. Interview with Jean Paul Gaultier.
Paris Fashion Week had several events worth being part of. One of them was the opening in Cinematheque of an exposition organized by Jean Paul Gaultier. This wonderful story is about love, love of Jean Paul Gaultier to cinema.
Cinematheque is a place in Paris which holds many wonders. One of them is the collection of the costumes, donated to this museum by the actors and film directors. This collection is wonderfully rich by the costumes since black and white movies. Extremely rare pieces carefully stored in the archives. It started by Henri Langlois, a pioneer of film preservation, he was an influential figure in the history of cinema.
Jean Paul Gaultier made a selection of the rare dresses and the costumes from the iconic movies, including the costumes of the designers like Paco Rabanne. Jean Paul Gaultier shared with us his love to the cinema and the collection.
Interview with Jean Paul Gaultier
What I can say is that for me it is a joy and an honor.
I’ve always been inspired by cinema. If I did fashion it was because I saw the films that made me want to do fashion.
When I was a little boy, I saw on television a program called “The shepherdesses follies”. I was very inspired. Then at 13 I saw a film called “Paris Frills (French: Falbalas)” with Micheline Presle. The story was quite incredible. Then Micheline Presle, the star of the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s, who made many other incredible films. Even when she was 80 years old she was incredible.
So she was the person who made me say after seeing her films: “Hey, this is the film, this is what I want to do. I want to be a couturier like the couturier who did these dresses. I’m going to do the same thing. And it was my bible, it was my school.
I didn’t go to fashion school. All I did was watching again, and again this film “Falbalas”. I had the chance when I was 18 to join Pierre Cardin fashion house. And then I decided to visit the Jean Patou fashion house which was on rue Saint Florentin. And I said to myself I’m in “Falbala”.
This film was so exceptional. In this film I saw a perfect picture of what I saw later in sewing, in fashion. So it was all there, and it was some sort of the truth of my life, the part that made me the couturier.
The reason why this film was so good is because Jacques Becker, the director of “Falbala”, was a very friend of Marcel Rochas, a couturier, who in addition (I realized it afterwards) made the corsets. I was so inspired by his corsets and corset-dresses, that I said to myself: “Hey, here it is!”
So if you want, it was thanks to this film which was such a painting that I became the designer.
And of course I have always been influenced by cinema. Cinema is like fashion represents what happens in society, in life. They are some sort of the zeitgeist, the zeitgeist that filmmakers, directors like Costa Gravas, reflect in their movies. And I must say that we, people who work in fashion, reflect a little bit of our society, telling stories about what happens…
Economically, socially we are the reflection of what is going on with the world at some point. We have to make people wonder, we must evoke something beautiful, and make them dream.
I’ve been influenced by lots of films. So in this exhibition you will obviously see my beginnings, my beginnings in fashion.
We worked on this exhibition for a year. I was a little shocked a few times during the preparation, even though I had some discoveries in clothing from the 30s, and in the details which were revealing something which belongs to men’s fashion.
For example, I’m giving you this little story because it is not in the exhibition.
I’m telling you between us, the men’s jacket has an inside pocket (breast pocket) on the left side because it is closed on the right side. Tricky, hah? On women’s jackets there is none, no pocket. For men there is always a pocket to put the wallet, or purse. These are symbols of a man who has the power etc.
I tried in my collections to do the opposite, on women’s jackets I put inside pockets too, on the other side, so that women can have a symbol of power, they can pay at the restaurant etc. It’s a small detail but very important, which is very much related to our society and life.
These are just little details in clothing.
Another example, the relationship between men and women is still very very present in clothes. I have always tried to shake things up, to mix a little bit… So in this exhibition I tried to show it.
We can see the changes in society through cinema and fashion, the evolution of a woman who takes more and more power and strength.
Now there is Wonder Woman, a modern heroine. And there are the men who are becoming more and more, let’s say venal, the men objects. I showed in my collections “feminine” men… assuming their sex appeal. In the past it was only a woman who could be a sexual object.
When I did my first menswear show I showed a man as a sexual object. I wanted to show the contrast, something that was taboo, the differences in relation to the power.
I did fashion because there was this notion of a spectacle, a show. I wanted fashion to do this show. We see the models pass by. But the show is something unreal, abstract, you see? It’s like a movie. There are the spotlights on the models, an audience, people applaud if they like the show. That is why when I started to do my shows I asked actresses to do the runway.
My models have such energy, such personality, that they reflect how I feel about modern women… The young women that I had met at the Palace at the time inspired me a lot, and some of them I asked to model for me. I certainly like models with very different physique, which was rather a little androgynous.
For example I asked Edwige who was the queen of french punks and Farida Khelfa to model for me, who had an absolutely sublime maghrebine beauty. Her attitude was also very different… attitude is very important. In a show the gestures of the models are very important. They represent models’ personalities and I sometimes… it’s a parenthesis, but I sometimes invite actresses or even rock stars to do the show. And I must say that for them it is quite difficult to express themselves only with gestures, with the glance. It’s a bit like choreography.
How oneself can express oneself without a word, it is very difficult. I saw more and more models who had a lot to say, who were very intelligent. It’s ridiculous but at the time… it was really like that… there was this kind of “machismo”, and I tried to show that men can be beautiful, and to shut up…
This is why I am silent now! Ha ha ha…
I had my childhood dream… I dreamed of doing fashion, doing shows, and I realized it. I have fun while working. It’s like fun… I like having fun, I laugh a lot.
Ah… there’s another movie that influenced me in my work. A photographer William Klein who made a movie “Who are you Polly Maggoo?”. This is one of my favorite movies. It shows fashion from a very different angle, in a rather sarcastic and ironic way.
So I may not have sarcasm, no, but I can see very well the ironic side of fashion that can be there. This is a kind of a shift away from the snobbery that can be in fashion sometimes. All of it always amused me at the same time.
I didn’t feel concerned at all by this side, on the contrary I tried to get over this snobbery and be very careful. I do not judge people by their clothes, I watch and try to understand people by their attitude, and see what’s inside.
I remember the last scene from the movie “Eight Women” with Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant. There is a scene of a fight between them. Their fighting feels like some kind of sketch, and it’s not really a fight, it’s also a hug.
Well, that is how I wanted to show life too, that’s how I wanted to do the fashion show, that’s how I always saw the runway. And this mix between fight and hug we can feel through their clothes.
Catherine Deneuve wore a Saint Laurent dress, and this outfit showed her so well as a “Bobo”, a bourgeois woman. She showed this image in the movie “Belle de jour”… vert discreet, secret and politically correct, and in truth with her reversed universe.
So, these movies are the social correspondence to all the issues in our society, and it is shown through the clothing. We can say that the clothing is not everything, it is the person who wears them that counts.
I mean it is the person who makes the garment moves, who gives life to a fashion garment is the most important object for observation and understanding. The clothing is made just to show the interior of a person who wears them. The clothes are made only for that. Clothes are primary, they are secondary… But clothes are very important, because through the clothing we can communicate. That’s how they became a very important social factor.