This is proving to be a good spring for top-flight fashion exhibitions in London. Hard on the heels of The Glamour of Italian Fashion at the V&A comes The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at the Barbican, opening on Wednesday April 9. This is the first stop in a world tour for an acclaimed exhibition created by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts last year, and the first major examination of work by one of fashion’s most subversive talents. Although a full-scale practitioner of haute couture, whose Paris atelier produces exquisitely structured and embellished handmade items, Gaultier is better known for the conical bra corsets he created for Madonna in 1990 and his playful takes on androgyny.
Some of the 165 outfits on display reveal his theatrical side – including costumes for films by Pedro Almodóvar and Luc Besson, stage outfits for Kylie Minogue and that Madonna corset – but many others show his mastery of the wearable in figure-flattering tailoring, elegant draped dresses and spectacular eveningwear, often with an ethnic slant. These aspects are foremost in a new collaboration between multibrand store Matchesfashion.com and Decades, Cameron Silver’s Los Angeles vintage shop, to celebrate the exhibition and the new focus on Gaultier’s work – which goes in-store for two weeks and online on Wednesday April 2.
At Matchesfashion.com’s request, Silver has compiled a wonderful collection of 87 of Gaultier’s greatest hits from the 1990s and early 2000s, all in excellent condition. Many show his talent for the unexpected – a one-shouldered tuxedo (£421), for example, or a skirt (£1,308, third picture) in his favourite kilt shape, its tartan worked in bright sequins on silk. Many pieces are as stylish as the day they were designed – strictly tailored jackets (around £1,800), sequinned Fair Isle sweaters (example first picture, £935) or a very Parisian take on the trenchcoat (£888). There are also excursions to the wilder shores of Gaultier’s oeuvre – several leather corsets (around £890) and even a version of the conical bra top (£2,336, second picture). A unique chance to own some of the key works of a very singular designer.