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Jean Paul Gaultier: Androgynous Fashion

with 2 comments

Wednesday Rica and I went to see “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. (March 24 – August 19, 2012)

Years ago I thought I wanted to be a fashion photographer until I realized I was more interested in the models than I was in the clothes. I haven’t paid much attention to men’s or women’s fashion since. If you’ve ever seen how I dress you know the obvious truth to this statement.

So it was a surprise to discover that Gaultier is a world famous and celebrated French couturier, known for his irrelevant humor, flamboyant wardrobes, cone bras, and extremely loose male-female boundaries.

The multimedia exhibit is very large, covering about ten dramatically lit rooms, and dominated by rows of talking androgynous mannequins with video-animated faces. The eerie faces were a mystery to me until I noticed the projectors in the ceiling precisely aimed at each talking head. Your really have to see this to appreciate how well this comes off.

I found the experience mind bending. Gaultier certainly challenges societal codes and clothing design. He’s extremely creative and I can understand him being dubbed fashion’s “enfant terrible.” Still, I found the experience somewhat disturbing. Fashion has legitimacy as an art form, but at it’s extreme can send a message to women I’m not comfortable with: You’re not OK as you are.

These photos hardly do justice to the high drama of the exhibit, but hopefully you’ll get a taste. I used my Fujifilm  X100. Rica used her iPhone. Considering how dark the rooms are, both cameras did remarkably well.

Gaultier at the De Young

Gaultier models

Tube bra

Gaultier fashion exhibit


Rica took the following photos with her iPhone
Gaultier model
Gaultier headwear
Talking heads
Gaultier lace model

Update: June 19, 2012

Friend Uwe Wagner has just shared some of his iPhone photos from the exhibit. According to Adobe Lightroom 4, his phone chose to expose at 1/15 sec at f/2.8. This is a slow shutter speed to handhold and expect sharp pictures, but the little devise did the job. Either the phone has good image stabilization to reduce blurring or Uwe has incredibly steady hands. Naturally he’d like to take credit!

I’m still left with the question: Does anyone in the real world wear these clothes? I guess I might see some of them at the Academy Awards, but that’s hardly the real world.

Let me know what you think.


Written by Ron Greene

June 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

2 Responses

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  1. Extremely fascinating and thought-provoking. Thanks for this glimpse, both of you, since I don’t plan to get to SF in near future. Loved your comment about your former attraction to fashion photography. Judith Pruess-Mellow


    June 17, 2012 at 5:51 am

  2. Actually, I’m still interested in fashion photography, just not fashion, if this makes sense. Photographers like Richard Avedon, Annie Lebovitz, and Steven Meisel have been an inspiration.


    June 17, 2012 at 9:35 am

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