John Paul Gautier: Fashion Freak Show preview at the Roundhouse
Fashion legend Jean Paul Gaultier announced his retirement in early 2020, after 50 years in the business. While he is no longer designing ready-to-wear or haute couture clothes, his passion for dazzling an audience is by no means extinguished. After a successful run in his native France and a stint at London’s Southbank in 2019, he will be bringing the larger-than-life spectacle entitled Fashion Freak Show to Camden’s Roundhouse this summer.
At the press launch held at the venue, Gaultier admitted that if it were not for the performance element in catwalks, he would not have chosen to become a fashion designer at all, but would have made costumes for film and theatre instead. What attracted him most was the process of putting on a memorable show and making it as extravagant and theatrical as possible. Mainly inspired by cinema, but also by the disco and punk scenes of the 1970s and 80s and by the most glamorous and eccentric figures of the 20th century, he always knew he wanted to create things that stood out and deviated from the norm. In fact, he recounts the amusing story of how he came up with the idea of his infamous conical bra very early in life, when he made a fashionable brasserie for his teddy bear after his parents refused to buy him a doll, which they deemed unsuitable for a boy.
The show, inspired by the designer’s life and career, brings together all the recurrent themes and iconic pieces that emerged from the Gaultier brand over the years, with the addition of new outlandish costumes. It also depicts the creative journey of the man behind the name, showing his beginnings as a boy whose grandma let him watch television and movies quite freely. “You could say I was educated by the TV,” jokes Gautier, adding that it was in a film that he first saw a fashion show and decided he wanted to do just that.
A combination of dance, drama, a funky soundtrack and, naturally, a catwalk make the Fashion Freak Show a real party that the fashion icon is very excited to adapt for the circular stage of the Roundhouse. Calling the performance a freak show might bring to mind negative connotations, but the designer explains it this way: “To me, the word ‘freak’ means different. It doesn’t mean something monstrous. As a child I felt I was different so I was open to a different kind of beauty. That’s why in my shows I don’t use typical models.”
Now that he has left his brand in the hands of new designers, whom he gives the freedom to reinvent his style with their own vision, Jean Paul Gautier can finally dive deep into realising his childhood dream: putting on an exuberant celebration of nonconformity, with no other scope than to provide pure, unrestrained entertainment.
John Paul Gautier: Fashion Freak Show preview is at the Roundhouse from 15th July until 28th August 2022. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.