09:18 AM

Culture Watch: The Extraordinary World of Jean Paul Gaultier - at the de Young

(Photos by Tom Foremski.)

Friday evening I was at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate park to see The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.

The museum is on a roll with its exhibits of leading fashion designers. The Vivienne Westwood show was fantastic, and the Balenciaga exhibit last year was even better. And this one is extraordinary, the best so far.

It's a superb curation and the presentation the work of designer Jean Paul Gaultier, dubbed "fashion's enfant terrible" is fantastically creative. I've never seen anything like it before.

The mounting, the display, the lighting are superbly tuned to the works displayed -- the de Young's staff should be congratulated for their skill in building this exhibit.

The designs are incredible for their innovation and creativity. And there's lots of them, he makes it seem so easy. But there is a huge amount of detail in each one of the many pieces, matching accessories, and ornamentation. Each outfit must have taken a lot of thought and work.

Jean Paul Gaultier launched his first prêt-à-porter collection in 1976 and founded his own couture house in 1997.

Emerging as a designer in the 1970s, he developed his own dress codes that reflected the changing world around him. The openly gay Gaultier uses his designs to tackle gender and transgender issues through androgynous, gender-bending styles, meanwhile delving even further into some of the darker areas of the sexual revolution.

Always provocative, he addresses issues of multiculturalism by bringing ethnic diversity to the Paris runway. Despite the gritty and sometimes controversial context of his collections, the clothes remain beautiful, superbly crafted with the finest dressmaking and detailing skills.

When you first walk-in, this is what you see. A dark blue space and in the distance a glowing row of mannequins.

When you get closer you can see the faces are moving, lips open, eyes close, some speak, or sing, others seem asleep -- then wake wide eyed. Images are being projected from carefully shielded projectors. The effect is incredibly wonderful, creepy, and brilliant.

Jean Paul Gaultier.

Would Hipsters wear these clothes?