Designer dresses can come in a surprising form. Probably one of the most interesting things about the current Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the De Young is his use of unorthodox materials in his design. There’s the hat made from hair, the latex wedding dress, and then there’s my personal favorite – the garbage bag dress. Yes, one of the dresses in his current exhibit, “From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” is made entirely from a garbage bag, harkening back to his “High Tech” pret-a-porter Fall/Winter collection from 1980/81, with it’s tin can bracelet , ashtray purse and scouring pad belt accessories. In typical Gaultier fashion, the use of bold colors, complicated details, metal embellishments, floral patterns and lace, show why many of his pieces take over 200 hours each to make. As the self-taught designer Jean Paul Gaultier says, “I am convinced that beautify comes in diverse forms. When you look at something like a tin can with a fresh eye, you can see a kind of beauty where others will only see a garden-variety object.”
There’s nothing really garden-variety about this exhibit that shows the culmination of the designer’s fashions from his start at the house of Pierre Cardin in the 70’s to present. There’s plenty of uni-sex outfits, including the man-skirt, which Gaultier brought with a buzz to the fashion world in 1985, and plenty of references to street wear, from which he takes many of his design cues. and, of course, there’s the conical bra that Madonna wore on her 1990’s Blonde Ambition Tour. If you haven’t had a chance to get to the exhibit yet, I would highly recommend it. Even if you’re not a fashionista, you’ll enjoy it for it’s shock value, artistry and the really unique way they’ve displayed the garments (I don’t want to give too much away here), so go check it out for yourself. You’ll be inspired to see things in a different light, including tin cans and scouring pads.
And, if you head over to the De Young on a Friday night, from 5 to 8 p.m., admission is FREE.