Jean Paul Gaultier spectacular takes up summer residency at the Roundhouse
- Credit: Boby
Fashion "enfant terrible" Jean Paul Gaultier brings his autobiographical revue to the Roundhouse this summer.
Launching Fashion Freak Show, the French designer said it was his first time at the Chalk Farm venue.
"It's beautiful. It's a shame it's the first time I have discovered it, even the toilets are fantastic."
Gaultier, who turns 70 in April, said it was a "beautiful environment" for the show, which blends song and dance numbers, catwalk couture, comic skits, video and circus to tell the story of his life – from growing up in a Paris suburb, to five decades dressing movie stars and pop icons.
First performed at Paris' Folies Bergere, it will be adapted for the circular space, with a catwalk jutting into the audience. Alongside fabulous costumes which draw on bondage, ballet, burlesque – and bananas – it features teddy bear Nana, whom Gaultier would dress up.
"Madonna was not the first person to wear my conical bra," he revealed. "When I was a child I wanted a doll but my parents didn't because I was a boy, so I got my grandmother's powder and lipstick and put Nana in a bra. It was the late 50s when they were pointed so I put some cones in."
For Gaultier, the word "freak" simply means "different".
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"Vive la difference," he said. "I like different. In my shows I used people that were not models to show there is not only one kind of beauty. I chose them for their gesture, attitude and expression of strong modern women."
It was seeing the 1945 movie Falbalas about the world of couture that made him want to go into fashion. And if his first sketches hadn't found favour with Pierre Cardin when he was 18, he might have gone into costume design.
Gaultier found a "creativity and liberation" in 1970s London – the King's Road, Camden Market, Rocky Horror, and Vivienne Westwood – that was lacking in France. With a soundtrack embracing disco, funk, pop and punk, the show references London's club scene.
"London has always been an inspiration for me - in fashion and spirit. The nightlife, the sex life, was quite nice when I was 20. Better than Paris, not so conservative. Paris was chic, pretentious, very French. Many things happened to me during that disco period, I fell in love, there were good fun moments."
After 50 years in fashion he stopped. Gaultier says his shows became "more and more theatrical" and his heart is now in theatre, but he's happy to see new blood bringing a "fresh approach".
Fashion Freak Show runs July 15 to August 28. Visit www.roundhouse.org.uk/whats-on/2022/fashion-freak-show/ for tickets.