Proud to be JPG

This weekend San Francisco (and the world) celebrates gay pride with rainbows, parades, love, and equality. What better way to ring in the revelry than with a visit to The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, which highlights the designer’s personal ethos of “equality, diversity and perversity?” Blurring the lines between male and female, Gaultier achieves a code of beauty that is at once masculine, feminine, and androgynous. The openly gay Gaultier has never been afraid to break social taboos, and in so doing has created his own open-minded and generous fashion world.

Men in Lace

As a child, Gaultier was creative, un-athletic, and often picked on at school. When Gaultier was once caught sketching during class, his teacher pinned the creation onto his shirt as an intended punishment; but when the other children began to request drawings from the talented young boy, Gaultier immediately recognized his difference for what it was—a gift. In this way, Gaultier’s early artistic expression provided an early escape and an avenue that led, surprisingly, to acceptance by his peers.

JPG Sketch

In the March cover story of Out magazine, Gaultier discussed his family’s open and compassionate attitudes towards homosexuality.

My parents never said anything bad about gay people. My grandmother, also, was very clever. I was maybe 11 or 12, and she gave me a book about Christian Dior. It said that he was gay. So I realized that boys could go with boys. I was a little confused at this point, in love with Romeo and with Juliet.

After watching Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with his parents, the young Gaultier asked them what their reaction would be if he brought home a black girlfriend. According to Gaultier, “They said, ‘If you love each other, that is all we care about. We will not say anything. Love is always good.’”

A few years later, Gaultier posed the same question, only slightly tweaked: “When I said that the girl is perhaps not a girl, they said the same: ‘If you love each other, perfect.’ That gave me peace.”

JPG Daisies

Pierre et Gilles, Jean Paul Gaultier, 1990. Designed specially to illustrate the cover of the autobiographical photonovel À Nous Deux la mode. Painted photograph, framed by the artists. Private collection, Paris. © Pierre et Gilles/Rainer Torrado

Later, when Gaultier broke into the fashion industry, he encountered a rich assembly of positive gay role models.

I had the great example of Yves Saint Laurent and Mr. Bergé, so I understood very easily that men could go to parties as a couple. They set that example. In fashion, you are not rejected because you are gay. I felt like everything was normal in the job I wanted to do.

YSL and Berge

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé

As the designer’s point of view evolved, Gaultier experimented with and inverted fashion norms by questioning and redefining traditional gender roles.

Through clothes, I felt that you could say something. In my shows, I could show a different type of beauty. Through my collections, I tried different casting, different ways of walking, and I loved to show ambiguity. What is masculine and what is feminine, anyway? Why should men not show that they can be fragile or seductive? I am only happy when there is no discrimination.

JPG Skirt

The Raw and the Refined collection. Men’s prêt-à-porter spring/summer 1994. 30th anniversary retrospective runway show, October 2006. © Patrice Stable/Jean Paul Gaultier

This weekend, celebrate the endeavor to end discrimination with a visit to The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier on view at the de Young through August 19!

On Sunday, June 24, stop by our booth at SF Pride to pick up your Jean Paul Gaultier-inspired tattoo (temporary, of course) and experience outrageous performances from Gregangelo's Velocity Circus!