His ‘World’ and welcome to it

French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier talks one-on-one about his Dallas exhibition, celebrities and the most beautiful clothing a gay man can wear (hint: it’s not couture)

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CELEBRITY MYTH MAKER | Need an idea how influential Gaultier is? Leading up to the Super Bowl halftime show this week, the image most associated with Madonna was the cone-bra boustier Gaultier designed.

RICHARD BURNETT  | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

Jean Paul Gaultier loves a fabulous rack. While he was in Montreal, he let slip that one artifact scheduled for display in The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk — about to wrap up its run at the Dallas Museum of Art — was his 1960 teddy bear, Nana. The piece is complete with the cone bra Gaultier crafted when he was just 8 years old.
“You see, I designed the cone bra 30 years before I made one for Madonna,” Gaultier laughs.

The iconic body corset he created for Miss Ciccone’s 1990 Blond Ambition Tour is also included in this multimedia exhibition, the first international showing devoted to the celebrated French couturier and, featuring 140 ensembles from 40 years of his couture and prêt-à-porter collections. Gaultier gave the curators exclusive access to his label’s archives in putting together the exhibition. Still, the fabulous gay designer, in a rare one-on-one interview, goes out of his way to emphasize that this is not a retrospective.

“It is more a contemporary installation,” Gaultier says. “When the director of the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Nathalie Bondil, asked me to participate on this project, I did not want to have a retrospective that would be like a funeral, a chronological presentation. I worked closely two years with the team and curator, Thierry-Maxime Loriot, on the selection of the pieces, on developing the themes that have obsessed me — corsets, skin, cultures, genders, Parisiennes, etc. — since I started in the fashion world. It is my story [told] through my clothes.”

This is not your ordinary fashion show … nor ordinary museum piece. As extraordinarily well-constructed as Gaultier’s clothing, it boasts dazzling layouts, colors, lighting and projections that animate the faces of mannequins that make them seem to come alive.

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COWBOY CHIC | The entrance to the DMA exhibit, autographed for Dallas by JPG himself. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Gaultier has always prided himself on being avant-garde and over-the-top, from the designs themselves to the models who show them off.

“The fashion world can be very formatted when it comes to casting choices and the way models should look,” he explains. “I don’t follow trends. From my very first shows, I did street castings, [using] friends and anybody I thought was interesting. I sell my clothes to real people, not only models. Women are very powerful now, and they can [take responsibility for] what they wear. It is like when Madonna decides to wear a corset; it is like a political statement because she decides to do so. It then becomes a symbol of power and femininity. We dress first for ourselves.”

Gaultier has also been inspired by and worked with many other celebrities from Pedro Almodóvar to Leslie Cheung. What, in his estimation, is the common denominator of great stars?

“All the stars I have worked with are very different,” Gaultier says. “I guess the thing that successful stars have in common is that they work very hard. There is no secret to success, even if you are not a pop singer. Madonna still fascinates me. She has been of great help for this exhibition and the [accompanying] book, loaning pieces from her Blond Ambition Tour and Confessions Tour.”

Another adored Gaultier muse is plus-size pop singer Beth Ditto, of the band The Gossip. Ditto once notoriously complained to London’s NME magazine, “If there’s anyone to blame for size zero, it’s not women. Blame gay men who work in the fashion industry and want these women as dolls. Men don’t know what it feels like to be a woman and be expected to look a particular way.”

“I think everybody is beautiful and has a different kind of beauty,” says Gaultier. “It is always a question of perception and of presentation. Beth Ditto is fascinating by the way she moves and assumes her body. She represents freedom. She comes from a small town in the U.S., is voluptuous and openly gay. She is very sexy. I have used a lot of plus-size models in my show. They are part of the society, so why not of the fashion world?”

While Gaultier believes women are dressing more for themselves these days rather than for men, he says straight men are also becoming much more style-savvy.

“I think all men should show more their sensitive side, to show more their bodies and shapes,” he explains. “It is not a question of gay or straight. Both can have good and bad taste! I think straight men are getting better with their style. [But] gay men are [still] more aware of what suits them best in some cases, because they have this sensitivity.”

As for his own wardrobe, Gaultier insists he owns nothing that approaches the kind of clothes he designs.

“I am not extravagant; I like to dress others,” he explains. “I am more conventional now, but in my personal archives I have a lot [of extravagant outfits], like when I hosted the MTV Europe Awards in 1995 and did 16 costume changes during the show, from a see-through gown with platform boots to a leopard-print Speedo with matching thigh-high boots and maxi fake fur coat. Actually, you can see excerpts of it in the exhibition.”

Gaultier — whose atelier has lost many employees to AIDS over the last quarter century — says somberly, “Condoms are the most beautiful clothes to wear. AIDS affected a lot my entourage, close friends, co-workers and my partner, who died from it in 1990. I started being involved with AmFar in 1992 when I did a benefit fashion show in LA to fight against this terrible disease. People need to be educated about safer sex. Because even if you can take medications and [can] control it, you still cannot cure it. So awareness is very important.”

”The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier”, at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 Harwood St., through Sunday. DallasMuseumofArt.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier at the DMA

Gaultier gets his proper due

The world has ooh-ed and ahh-ed over designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s striking fashions for years, but from afar. The Dallas Museum of Art brings the designer’s work up close in the highly anticipated exhibit The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. The exhibit includes not only his fashions, but an animatronic mannequin of the designer. And it talks!

DEETS: DMA, 1717 N. Harwood St. Through Feb. 12. $16–$20. DallasMuseumofArt.org.

—  Rich Lopez

The good, the bad & the ‘A-List’

These arts, cultural & sports stories defined gay Dallas in 2011

FASHIONS AND FORWARD  |  The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA, above, was a highlight of the arts scene in 2011, while Dirk Nowitzki’s performance in the NBA playoffs gave the Mavs their first-ever — and much deserved — world title. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

FASHIONS AND FORWARD | The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA, above, was a highlight of the arts scene in 2011, while Dirk Nowitzki’s performance in the NBA playoffs gave the Mavs their first-ever — and much deserved — world title. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

A lot of eyes were focused on Dallas nationally in 2011 — for good and bad — but much of what made the city a fun place last year has specific queer appeal. CULTURE The rise of the reality TV star. 2011 was the year Dallas made a big splash across everyone’s television sets — and it had nothing to do with who shot J.R. (although that’s pending). From the culinary to the conniving, queer Dallasites were big on the small screen. On the positive side were generally good portrayals of gay Texans. Leslie Ezelle almost made it all the way in The Next Design Star, while The Cake Guys’ Chad Fitzgerald is still in contention on TLC’s The Next Great Baker. Lewisville’s Ben Starr was a standout on MasterChef. On the web, Andy Stark, Debbie Forth and Brent Paxton made strides with Internet shows Bear It All, LezBeProud and The Dallas Life,respectively.

‘A’ to Z  |  ‘The A-LIst: Dallas,’ above, had its detractors, but some reality TV stars from Big D, like Chad Fitzgerald, Leslie Ezelle and Ben Starr, represented us well.

‘A’ to Z | ‘The A-LIst: Dallas,’ above, had its detractors, but some reality TV stars from Big D, like Chad Fitzgerald, Leslie Ezelle and Ben Starr, represented us well.

There were downsides, though. Drew Ginsburg served as the token gay on Bravo’s teeth-clenching Most Eligible: Dallas, and the women on Big Rich Texas seemed a bit clichéd. But none were more polarizing than the cast of Logo’s The A-List: Dallas. Whether people loved or hated it, the six 20somethings (five gays, one girl) reflected stereotypes that made people cringe. Gaultier makes Dallas his runway. The Dallas Museum of Art scored a coup, thanks to couture. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk not only featured the work of the famed designer, but was presented the designs in an innovative manner. Nothing about it was stuffy. Seeing his iconic designs in person is almost a religious experience — especially when its Madonna’s cone bra. Gaultier reminded us that art is more than paintings on a wall. (A close runner-up: The Caravaggio exhibit in Fort Worth.) The Return of Razzle Dazzle. ­­There was speculation whether Razzle Dazzle could actually renew itself after a near-decade lull, but the five-day spectacular was a hallmark during National Pride Month in June, organized by the Cedar Springs Merchant Association. The event started slowly with the wine walk but ramped up to the main event street party headlined by rapper Cazwell. Folding in the MetroBall with Deborah Cox, the dazzle had returned with high-profile entertainment and more than 10,000 in attendance on the final night. A Gathering pulled it together. TITAS executive director Charles Santos took on the daunting task of producing A Gathering, a collective of area performance arts companies, commemorating 30 years of AIDS. Groups such as the Dallas Opera, Turtle Creek Chorale and Dallas Theater Center donated their time for this one-of-a-kind show with all proceeds benefiting Dallas’ leading AIDS services organizations. And it was worth it. A stirring night of song, dance and art culminated in an approximate 1,000 in attendance and $60,000 raised for local charities. Bravo, indeed. The Bronx closed after 35 years. Cedar Springs isn’t short on its institutions, but when it lost The Bronx, the gayborhood felt a real loss. For more than three decades, the restaurant was home to many Sunday brunches and date nights in the community. We were introduced to Stephan Pyles there, and ultimately, we just always figured on it being there as part of the fabric of the Strip. A sister company to the neighboring Warwick Melrose bought the property with rumors of expansion. But as yet, the restaurant stands steadfast in its place as a reminder of all those memories that happened within its walls and on its plates.  The Omni changed the Dallas skyline. In November, The Omni Dallas hotel opened the doors to its 23-story structure and waited to fill it’s 1,000 rooms to Dallas visitors and staycationers. Connected to the Dallas Convention Center, the ultra-modern hotel is expected to increase the city’s convention business which has the Dallas Visitors and Conventions Bureau salivating — as they should. The hotel brought modern flair to a booming Downtown and inside was no different. With quality eateries and a healthy collection of art, including some by gay artists Cathey Miller and Ted Kincaid, the Omni quickly became a go-to spot for those even from Dallas. SPORTS The Super Bowl came to town. Although seeing the Cowboys make Super Bowl XLV would have been nice for locals, the event itself caused a major stir, both good and bad. Ticketing issues caused a commotion with some disgruntled buyers and Jerry Jones got a bad rap for some disorganization surrounding the game. But the world’s eyes were on North Texas as not only the game was of a galactic measure, but the celebs were too. From Kardashians to Ke$ha to Kevin Costner, parties and concerts flooded the city and the streets. The gays even got in on the action. Despite crummy weather, the Super Street Party was billed as the “world’s first ever gay Super Bowl party.” The ice and snow had cleared out and the gays came out, (and went back in to the warmer clubs) to get their football on. The XLV Party at the Cotton Bowl included a misguided gay night with acts such as Village People, Lady Bunny and Cazwell that was ultimately canceled. The Mavericks won big. The Mavs are like the boyfriend you can’t let go of because you see how much potential there is despite his shortcomings. After making the playoffs with some just-misses, the team pulled through to win against championship rivals, Miami Heat, who beat them in 2006. In June, the team cooled the Heat in six games, taking home its first NBA Championship, with Dirk Nowitzki appropriately being named MVP. The Rangers gave us faith. Pro sports ruled big in these parts. The Mavericks got us in the mood for championships and the Texas Rangers almost pulled off a victory in the World Series. With a strong and consistent showing for the season, the Rangers went on to defend their AL West Division pennant. Hopes were high as they handily defeated the Detroit Tigers in game six, but lost the in the seventh game. Although it was a crushing loss, the Texas Rangers proved why we need to stand by our men.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

SEX… in a fashion

The DMA’s exhibit on the fashions of Jean Paul Gaultier exudes sex appeal with a big dose of flamboyance

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DRESSED TO KILL IT | Gay fashion pioneer Jean Paul Gaultier oversees his own exhibit (Below) as an Animatronic mannequin, a fascinating technology that only accentuates the brilliance of the designs. (Photography by Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

 

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

For a man best known for creating the Valkyrie-like conical breastplate that shot Madonna into the pop culture stratosphere, Jean Paul Gaultier is a surprisingly humble person. While he’s clearly delighted to have his fashions on display — as they are at the Dallas Museum of Art in the traveling exhibit The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, which runs through February — he makes one thing plain: He does not consider fashion “art.”

“My work is not art,” he says flatly. “My job is to make clothes that have to be worn. My role is not to create in the abstract but to be inspired by the needs and desires of the people. So I am in service to that. Art is art — it is a personal vision of the artist.” He pauses, then adds with a smile, “My collections are my babies, though.”

While the designer himself may not consider his work product “art” in an academic sense, there are probably few who would agree with him. More so than most fashion designers, Jean Paul Gaultier’s style is instantly recognizable, even without seeing the label.

He almost single-handedly moved the bustier from the boudoir to the arena stage, cladding Madonna in a corset for her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990, immediately making legends of them both.

It’s not just brassieres, but lace bodysuits, silk leotards, men in skirts — Gaultier takes fashion rules and sets them on their heads, turning out wearable art (there, we said it) that is both old-fashioned, even classical, and futuristic — but always oozing sex.

“My love for fashion belongs to the fact I saw a movie from the 1940s when I was 12,” he says. “In the movie, they did a beautiful description of couture.” (Now, when he works with a film director — as he did recently with Pedro Almodovar on The Skin I Live In, or Luc Besson on several films — “it is like I return to that [moment]”.)

But really, the germ of his style was started by what a pre-teen Jean Paul found in his grandmother’s wardrobe.

“I was fascinated by the whole world of my grandmother’s closet — it was beautiful and different,” he says. “It was underwear that could be worn as outerwear. I stole my ideas from her.”

Though not just her. Gaultier was inspired by television, by old movies, by showgirls — anything that offered a view of beauty he could re-imagine on the runway.

“My definition of beauty — there’s not one type. Beauty is beauty — you can find it in different places,” he says.

It’s a keystone not only of his design style, but of the DMA’s astonishingly exciting exhibit. (Anyone who doesn’t think a Gaultier gown deserves formal museum treatment obviously hasn’t seen the show.) In just a handful of rooms, we move from camp to punk — with many, many visits to edgy haute couture.

In the first gallery, visitors are introduced to Gaultier himself, talking about his fashions via a quasi-Animatronic mannequin that captures his actual face and voice, projected with unnerving authenticity. That happens with a lot of the mannequins, some of whom seem to look back, even judge you. (One Mohawk’d man in tights and a codpiece seemed to be flirting with me; I bet he does that with all the boys.) Lanky sailor boys in striped Apaché T-shirts look as if they leaped from a Tom of Finland drawing; that cone bra is also unmistakable.

Walk further, and the second room oozes the dark romance of a bordello, approximating (with its window-like display cases) the red-light district of Amsterdam. “I think when you exit this room, they should give you a cigarette,” I told another patron. She didn’t disagree.

Another room shows the movement of the pieces, sort of, with a moving catwalk that is like a time machine of Gaultier runway fashions, including representative designs from his famous Men in Skirts that took MOMA by storm some years ago. That’s only the most obvious example of the genderbending that is a Gaultier hallmark — and a central theme of the sexual forthrightness of the DMA’s exhibit.

“Androgyny is part of the thing that interests me,” he says, “that moment when the young can pass to adolescence [and] their beauty is between feminine and masculine at the same time. I use it to show in reality how [both sexes] can assume [the identity of the other sex]. In Scotland, you will see me in kilts and they are very masculine — it’s not feminine to wear a skirt [in that context].”

That, Gaultier says, is the essence of freedom, showing that “men can cry just as well as women can fight.”

And this exhibit shows that a designer can be an artist with a bold sense of sex — even if he doesn’t think so.

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ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

Visit DallasVoice. com/ category/ Photos to see more of the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best Bets • 11.11.11

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We’ll fall for these Con men
With more than 150 artists auctioning off their art and for cheap (opening bid is still $20), Art Con 7 is both the best place for snagging original art and a flat out blast. With live music by the Hope Trust, KERA’s Rawlins Gilliland as auctioneer and all of it benefiting Musical Angels that provides free piano lessons to hospitalized children, it’s unparalleled in offering a fulfilling night.

DEETS:
511 W. Commerce St.
7 p.m. $10.
ArtConspiracy.org.

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Sunday 11.13

Gaultier gets his proper due
The world has oohed and ahhed over designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s striking fashions for years, but from afar. The Dallas Museum of Art brings the designer’s work up close in the highly anticipated exhibit The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. The exhibit includes not only his fashions, but an animatronic mannequin of the designer. And it talks!

DEETS: DMA,
1717 N. Harwood St. Through
Feb. 12. $16–$20.
DallasMuseumofArt.org.

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Thursday 11.17

The man still is a “Work of Art”
Even with more than 30 years in the music industry, Morrissey still retains an air of mystery. That’s part of his mystique. Sure we’ve discovered tidbits about the former Smiths singer, but his hidden side is part of his allure and odd sex appeal.

DEETS: 
McFarlin Auditorium,
6405 Boaz Lane.
8 p.m. $40–$50.
Ticketmaster.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas