I just got winked at by a sailor

images-1We have become used to hearing about depressed fashion designers, addicted fashion designers, out of touch, overworked or bitter fashion designers (Why are you all looking at me like that?) so to prove there is still a smile playing on the Nars painted lips of the industry, it is my delight to direct your attention to Exhibit A: the perennially perky, madly merry, ever-influential Jean Paul Gaultier.

His work is now on display at the Brooklyn Museum. From a man who once declared,  “To be in a museum is (to be in) a cemetery” there were challenges to be met. Therefore this is not a typical exhibition.

The host welcomes you at the door and even takes time for a chat

The host welcomes you at the door and takes time for a chat


Now, is that Pepe or Popo?









From his days on Eurotrash, possibly the zaniest TV programme of my youth (and there were many, I hasten to add. Attempting to describe Grotbags to an American friend recently led to much perplexity), in which he chatted with his friends Pepe and Popo, two giraffes made of cardboard, followed by the surreal breakaway segments showcasing odd events from around the world, say, rabbit showjumping, Jean Paul Gaultier has always been giddily bonkers. That’s why we love him.

This bonkersness careens off the walls of the stately Brooklyn museum. Boing. Wee-heeeee. Boing..Yippeeeeee! The mannequins wearing creations from his archives bear projections of human faces on their smooth round heads so they smile, wink, and speak to you. Sensors are activated when you stop before them and they launch into conversation, mugging, smirking, suggestive. I was up for whatever the young marine fresh off the boat in the Odyssey room had in mind. The host, himself, trills and ooh la las, eyes twinkling, laugh lines deepening, like we were old friends and he’s just plain thrilled to see me. Oh, how I wish we were.

Gaultier's drawings for Madonna

Gaultier’s drawings for Madonna

Madonna, Blond Ambition 1990

Madonna, Blond Ambition 1990











I’m sad for you if you didn’t see Eurotrash in your formative years. But okay, I’m drying my eyes and we’ll try to move past it. For you will remember him as the mad genius behind Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour wardrobe back in the 90s. Or as I like to call him, the man who made Madonna interesting. In her music she has always attached herself to influential producers, collaborators, dance crazes, but she knew, recognized with a certainty she usually reserves for choosing new Latino pool boys, that she could hang up her holey fishnets and Lauperesque tutus when she hitched her ambition wagon to  Gaultier. She was made. His costumes dressed her for a place in the history books, gave her music a unique form, cinched, belted, buckled and strapped with, yes, breasts like missiles.

And then of course there is his catwalk fashion. Almost forty years of it. Behind all the brio and joie de vivre, the delicious perversiveness, the tongue-in-cheek sailor tops and berets, there is the inimitable skill of the couturier, the meticulous detail of an obsessively questioning mind, the gorgeously refined manifestations of his inherent rebelliousness, and the clothes that deserve to be stared at and studied no matter what smutty innuendo the mannequin next to you might  distract you with. Well, just have a look for yourself, you’ll see…

Bras as elbow pads, I ask you...

Bra cups as elbow pads, I ask you…


Take that Gaga, just many years later!











Hat flowers and tulle

Fabric flowers sprouting from froths of tulle

Black lace on oodles of tulle, what else do you need..?

Black lace applied to oodles of tulle…

Corsetry in denim

Corsetry in denim











I want to live in a floral cage

Kinky in blush satin

Kinky in blush










Dainty but determined, for the damsel who will distress.

Dainty but determined, for the damsel who will distress


Oh Belle Epoque me! To be unfurled in a whipped satin glaze!

Gorging on sumptuous fabrics and embellishment

Gorging on sumptuous fabrics and embellishment


Lampshade Luxe

Be still, my beading heart

Be still, my beading heart


My heart bleeds 








Don't it just make you dream..?

Don’t it just make you dream..?

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier; From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk stays in Brooklyn until February 2014 and then heads to the Barbican in London.

My novel set in the world of high fashion is now available. You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.



  1. I remember Eurotrash, of course! He was absolutely brilliant in there. Utterly unflappable even in the most absurd situation. Self-deprecating and witty. I thought he was great. And it was a great shame that Hermes sacked him. I liked his sexy collection for them and didn’t understand why he had to go… 😔

  2. Ah, so you have a strain of bonkers in you too? Happy to know.
    I think Hermes sacked him because he refused to be saddled… 😉

  3. Would you just LOOOOOK at all those gorgeous…. (I want to say pieces but that would deteriorate their grace) … lovely garments!!!!!! To touch and feel…
    The bleeding heart is so…um…so…I honestly have no words. But it is on the elegant side…
    Love this post!!

  4. Good to hear it’s coming to the Barbican…..can’t wait!! …..Thanks for bringing Grotbags back to my memory. Green hair springs to mind?….

  5. Peter McLaughlin

    Ahhg Grotbags. The funny ugly sister of Wicked’s Elphaba with an addiction to chocolate and perming solution who hated Rod Hull and Emu (but didn’t we all)

  6. One of life’s great genius’s. The Barbican hey..I’ll be there! x

  7. Love the captions under the pics. Priceless. Especially love “Be still, my beading heart.” Too funny, and brilliant. Cheers and happy writing (with your beading heart, hee, hee).

  8. Love this, especially the captions under the pics–priceless. Totally love “Be still, my beading heart.” Too funny, and brilliant. Cheers and happy writing (you would be so ashamed of my Alaska fashion sense, hee, hee).

    • Well, your Alaskan beaded heart raced at the glamour of Gaultier which is good enough for me. And you get to wear a lot of layering up there which suits me, a happily goose-pimpled Irish girl, not exactly cut out for NYC summers!

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