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Voila! Brooklyn backdrop suits Gaultier exhibit

Published on NewsOK Modified: October 23, 2013 at 4:39 pm •  Published: October 23, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — Jean Paul Gaultier can barely contain his enthusiasm to be in Brooklyn. Make that his enthusiasm for New York. And life, in general.

In a single conversation, seemingly a single breath, he covers the Chrysler Building; the 1940s film "Falbalas" that started his love affair with fashion; his beloved grandmother who inspired his fascination with corsetry; and the Broadway production of "Nine" that reminded him of it. A joie de vivre oozes with each word.

It leaves one wondering, is there anything Gaultier — he of the famous cone bras, tongue-in-cheek catwalks and rock-star collaborations — isn't exploding to talk about?

But back to Brooklyn. Until he arrived this week to christen the Brooklyn Museum exhibit "The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk," he had visited the now-hipster borough twice: once to a fish restaurant that was "very good," he says, and once to visit the nightclub where John Travolta wore his sharp white suit in the 1977 movie "Saturday Night Fever."

"I'm so impressed with Brooklyn," he says in his thick French accent and occasionally broken English, "and this museum is absolutely fabulous. Voila!"

This is no static fashion exhibition with gowns behind glass.

It seems there was no other way to put Gaultier's 30-plus-year career on display than on mannequins that cry, laugh and speak. They do it so realistically that passers-by surely will do a double take. They'll probably drive the security guards crazy at night.

Some of the outfits, including the "cancan" bustier dress lined with photo-printed legs that gives the illusion that an entire dance line is hiding under the full skirt, are on a revolving runway that aims to mimic the models on parade at a fashion show.

"Fashion is not clothes on the hanger, it was always about dressing somebody. Somebody has to be inside," the 61-year-old Gaultier says.

Seeing the childhood teddy bear that he used as his first model, complete with its bra top and red lipstick, in the same space as the iconic concert costumes he created for Madonna, Beyonce and Kylie Minogue "is a privilege of age," Gaultier says. "It's a very strong sensation."

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