French fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier has paid hommage to London and the British “cult of the difference” as he opened a major retrospective at the city’s Barbican on Tuesday.
“This exhibition is a kind of tribute to my love for this city,” he said at the launch of The Fashion world of Jean-Paul Gaultier, From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk.
“I feel more at home (in London) than in Paris in certain ways. There is a unique energy here, a unique eccentricity,” he said, adding that the city is still a great source of inspiration to him.
The charismatic designer, clad entirely in black, sparked hilarity by declaring that the British were now much improved in the kitchen and were in reality “little rascals”, contrary to their prudish image.
He recalled that the Brits were the first to take an interest in his work, while the French initially “did not care”.
“I have always loved individuality and people with character, and it’s true that in London there’s more character than anywhere else,” he said.
“They have this cult of being different that I especially love.”
It was in the British capital – where he came “to party” in the 1970s – that Gaultier made two significant discoveries: fashion store Biba, which he described as “like a dream,” and the play The Rocky Horror Show, which heavily influenced his later work.
London is the eighth stop for the exhibition, launched by the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal in 2011. The retrospective, already seen by a million visitors according to the organisers, will be held in Paris at the Grand Palais in 2015.
London’s influence on Gaultier is highlighted in the show by silhouettes of punks sporting huge mohawks. The exhibition also pays tribute to his British “muses,” including Amy Winehouse, Kate Moss, David Bowie and Boy George.
One room is devoted to Eurotrash, the outlandish adult television show hosted by Gaultier and Antoine de Caunes on Britain’s Channel 4 during the 1990s.
One particular highlight featured the pair in disguise as Prince Charles and his wife Diana, earning it the title of “the grossest show in the history of British television” from tabloid newspaper The Sun.
The exhibition runs from April 9 to August 25.