From Zorro’s mask to Rocky’s shorts, and from Madonna’s conical bra to Ringo Starr’s papal attire in the 1975 musical Lisztomania, some of the many costumes that have stitched together the worlds of film and fashion have gone on show in a Madrid exhibition overseen by Jean Paul Gaultier.
The enfant terrible of French fashion, now silver-haired and a couple of months shy of 70, says the idea is to look at how the two creative spheres have fed and influenced each other while simultaneously serving as mirrors of social, sexual and cultural change.
His show, simply titled Cine y Moda (Cinema and Fashion), is a joint project between La Cinémathèque Française and Spain’s La Caixa Foundation. In five thematic sections and through 100 garments, 90 film clips and 125 posters, stills, sketches and photographs, male and female archetypes are constructed, celebrated, questioned and deconstructed.
“I think that fashion shows represent life and society – and the evolution of society – and so does cinema,” Gaultier said at the launch on Thursday.
“In this exhibition, you can see how, little by little, fashion and film reflect what’s going on in society and how the world is evolving. You can see what’s going on and how men and women are evolving.”
Two films occupy a central place in the show’s examination of the interplay between the two art forms. The first is Jacques Becker’s 1945 melodrama Falbalas, also known as Paris Frills. Set in a couture house, the film inspired Gaultier to enter the world of fashion when he saw it at the age of 13. The second is Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, William Klein’s fashion industry satire from 1966.
Most of the items on display will be rather more familiar to visitors. The costume Christopher Reeve wore in Superman IV is there, as is Dolph Lundgren’s minimal, belty He-Man get-up from Masters of the Universe.
The dress, jacket and pumps worn by Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct’s infamous interrogation scene put in an appearance, and so does the famous conical bra Gaultier designed for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour. The designer’s explanation, printed alongside the bra, speaks for itself: “My conical breasts are almost an erotic aggression and paradoxically an armature that protects her at the same time; it is a woman who ‘harasses’ with her breasts.”
The show also takes in Gaultier’s collaborations with directors as diverse as Pedro Almodóvar and Luc Besson. The Frenchman said he had been a fan of Almodóvar long before the director suggested they work together.
“He showed women and La Movida [Spain’s post-Franco 1980s counter-cultural movement] and that spirit of freedom that we also saw in Paris,” said Gaultier. “He showed women not as objects but as strong women with character, like Rossy de Palma and Victoria Abril.”
His influence on the look of Besson’s The Fifth Element is illustrated by his sketches for the costumes worn by Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker.
Elsewhere are dresses worn by Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant in François Ozon’s 8 Women, a cockerel-adorned biker jacket that pays homage to Marlon Brando’s iconic original from The Wild One, and Gaultier’s take on Alex’s bowler hat and overalls from A Clockwork Orange.
Elisa Durán, deputy general director of La Caixa Foundation, described the exhibition as a celebration of the symbiosis between two artistic worlds.
“This is about the attraction that fashion’s always held for cinema, and about the attraction that the cinema’s always held for fashion,” she said. “This world of models and shows and the creations of great designers has been a source of inspiration for cinema almost since its origins.”
Gaultier, whose passion for film and fashion remains boundless, said his celluloid escapades had been both enjoyable and instructive.
“The first thing I learned was that I could never make a film because it’s such a difficult job,” he said. “Even if you have a visual or aesthetic sense, you have to direct the actors and worry about the story.”