LE FREAK CEST CHIC
The designer who commercialised ´fetish fashion´ and proved it was ok for blondes to have more fun has yet again brought an element of shock and awe into Paris and its 9th Arrondissement. L´Enfant terrible, Jean Paul Gaultier last month went onto fulfill yet another of his childhood dreams with the opening of his ´Fashion Freak Show´ at the home of the original French theatre of frills, Le Folies Bergere.
The fashion filled spectacular is a relentless biography of Gaultier´s life and experiences to date, which is sprinkled with more than a hint of his showmanship and catwalk razzmatazz. Gaultier takes us on a sentimental and colour saturated journey of his life so far. An introduction to his imagination from when he was a youngster sees him sketching out and making his first conical bra which he designed with his famous teddy, Nana. Throughout the two hour performance, the show never fails to excite with its inclusion of a world famous cast who act as the omniscient narrators (Rossy De Palma, Catherine Deneuve and Conchita Wurst, to name but a few).
Thanks to the pedigree of his portfolio, it is hard to imagine this larger than life figure staging a production of this type anywhere other than the Folies Bergere. Originally founded in 1869, it quickly became recognised as a decadent palace of refuge for the great and the not so good of Paris’s most underground and sexually liberal set. Due to the ´lightness and laxity´ associated with the space, it is no surprise to hear that its structure survived many a purge, until the building itself was reformed back into its Art Deco splendor in 1926 by artist Maurice Pico.
¨Within the naughtiest theatre in the world, Gaultier seduces us by titillating our taste buds with a stellar performance, glittering costumes and head dresses taller than the Eiffel Tower in the ultimate theatre of camp.¨ – Charles Daniel McDonald
Gaultier ensures that his show moves with the pace of a thoroughbred racehorse – enlisting the help of the revered Nile Rodgers to arrange the frenetic soundtrack which harmonises alongside Marion Motin´s flawless choreography. The marriage of these talents twist and turn the legendary Folies into a camp pastiche that matches perfectly Gaultier’s lifestyle in the most complimentary manner. All in all, it´s good risqué fun with Gaultier never afraid to parody himself, as back in the Eurotrash days.
No button is left un-turned in the reflection of a life that continues to be well written. With nods to the legendary Madonna and her 1990 Blonde Ambition Tour, there are many magical moments with those conical bras we know and love so well in abundance; making it difficult to convey the sheer glitz and over-the-top glamour of a show that is simply a delight to watch, unfold. The JPG Fashion Freak Show is co-directed by Gaultier’s longtime friend and associate Tonie Marshall with the young Gaultier portrayed by Australian dancer and Vogue exponent Patric Kuo, who gives an uncanny interpretation of a man who continues to bedazzle the fashion world in a good, if not so shocking way.
According to any time served Parisienne, this is what the Folies Bergere has always been about. In this case, a sassy cast of beautiful, fashionista driven exponents are led by a man who gives us all we deserve – pummeling fashion driven sexiness with a biographical open heartedness that is as fresh and honest as his fashions are unique. Viva la pluma!
Article: Charles Daniel McDonald
Photography: JPG Fashion Freak Show