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The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier sizzles in New York museum retrospective
A general view of atmosphere during the press preview for The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at the Brooklyn Museum on October 23, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images/AFP.

By: Brigitte Dusseau

NEW YORK (AFP).- A dazzling retrospective featuring the masterpieces of couture superstar Jean Paul Gaultier opened in New York on Friday, sizzling with wit and oozing sex appeal.

The Brooklyn Museum exhibition unites under one roof objects as diverse as the French designer's childhood teddy bear, a picture of his grandmother and the conical bras he designed for Madonna.

Brimming with infectious enthusiasm for life, fashion and the unique magic of New York, Gaultier says he is delighted and humbled at being given the retrospective.

Simply putting his clothes in a museum, however, was too "still life" for the designer, whose exhibition includes walking, talking mannequins including one of himself.

A life-size model of the designer, speaking in his voice, emoting with his facial expressions and wearing the sailor stripes he made iconic, introduces the tour.

"I love theater, I love shows ... I wanted to make it alive," Gaultier told reporters at the preview.

"It's a new adventure. It has made me look again at the clothes I've made and I tried to do something else, to present them in a different way," he explained to AFP.

"The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk" features 130 of his finest couture and ready-to-wear outfits dating back 40 years.

Apart from photographs, sketches and his fragrances, there is a picture of his grandmother -- one of his earliest muses, and his teddy bear Nana, for whom he crafted his first conical breasts, out of newspaper.

Then there are the clothes. Highlights include corsets and bras worn by Madonna during her world tours in 1990 and 2010.

An incredible mermaid-style wedding gown made out of a latex bodysuit with golden scales, cone bra shells, a sequined skirt and a latex mermaid's tail is an eye-catcher.

Another high point is the gown worn by US actress Sarah Jessica Parker at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards in New York.

In town for four months, the exhibition has already been seen by a million people in Dallas, San Francisco, Madrid, Rotterdam and Stockholm.

Gaultier said he was flattered to have his exhibition invited to Brooklyn, the increasingly fashionable part of New York once looked down upon by Manhattanites.

"Brooklyn is a very 'hip' part of New York, and I am very flattered, at my age," he joked.

Gaultier told AFP he loves "the diversity, the energy and the adrenaline, the American way of life."

"It's the openness of course, people of different races who come together, so much energy."

He still remembers the New York window displays -- "more beautiful than Paris" -- that took his breath away in the 1970s, when he first started his career.

When the exhibition opened in Montreal in June 2011, he was initially resistant but says he has since changed his mind completely.

"I learnt a lot of things. Museums can be an inspiration."

The exhibition is arranged into seven themes that chart the development of Gaultier's career, inspired by the punk movement in Britain and the Belle Epoque in France.

It begins with "Odyssey" and items from his first collection from 1971, before making its way into "The Boudoir" with Nana the teddy and the bras on loan from Madonna.

There is a section for his muses, and then there is a "Punk Cancan" area that houses a skin-tight houndstooth body suit that covers the face, complete with hat.

Further along is "Skin Deep," which displays his creations that resemble a second skin. "Metropolis" exhibits his collaborations on stage and screen and "Urban Jungle" contains his multi-ethnic creations.

The show, put together by Montreal Museum of Fine Arts director Nathalie Bondil and curator Thierry Maxime Loriot is in New York until February 23.

After New York, it goes to London where it will be on display at the Barbican from April 9 to August 17.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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