Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

Pain Couture by Jean-Paul Gaultier

Pain_Couture_exhibitionBY JESSICA HEMMINGS

Pain Couture by Jean Paul Gaultier
Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris
June 6 – October 10, 2004

Jean Paul Gaultier collaborated with the French Bakers Guild this summer to create a collection of garments and accessories made from bread. Decorated with Gaultier’s signature blue stripes, the various shapes and sizes of loaves – frankly more than one could image possible – were fashioned into life size dresses and accessories. The entire space was infused with the scent of fresh bread baked downstairs by a team of bakers and assistants dressed in nothing less than Gaultier designed uniforms.

Remarkably, many of the dresses captured the energy and motion of the catwalk sashay. Huge wicker baskets contained several of the more elaborate garments and presented references to both the baskets used to carry baked goods and the understructures of giant hoped skirts and corsets. Of the exhibition, which Gaultier conceived in lieu of what he feared would be a static retrospective of his work, the designer remarked, “This is art that is ‘nourishing,’ and not only for the mind.” Understandably, the heat of the Paris summer took its toll on many of the materials. Freshly baked loaves were used as replacements where necessary. This exchange acted as an uncanny reminder of the disposal nature of fashion: relentlessly shifting hemlines and silhouettes whose fleeting popularity rules the fashion industry.

Gaultier explains that the concept behind the exhibition, “bridges two worlds: the realism of the bakery and the enchantment of fashion.” Craft, it seems, that notoriously unfashionable word, was at the heart of this ambitious endeavour. The glamour of hand sewn couture clothing met the pedestrian world of baking. In this case the role reversal revealed that the creative talents and skill of both are surprisingly compatible. For those not on the Atkins diet, items from this “bake sale” were available at the bakery downstairs. Proceeds were donated to charity.

Fiberarts Magazine (Jan./Feb. 2005: 32-33)