Freak out: Telling a fashion life, Gaultier taps Nile Rodgers
Deciding how to tell his story as one of fashion’s edgiest
designers, Jean Paul Gaultier knew there had to be music. And he knew
it had to come from Nile Rodgers.
The designer who has brought playful and provocative clothes to
runways for four decades is turning the focus to himself with an
autobiographical show to open on October 2 in Paris.
More than a catwalk and not quite a musical, the genre-blurring “Fashion
Freak Show” will bring out Gaultier’s iconic designs as well as new outfits
and tell his life through actors, models and a live singer.
Spearheading the music will be the creator of “Le Freak” himself — Nile
Rodgers, the force behind disco titans Chic and the behind-the-scenes producer
for a who’s who of stars from Madonna to Diana Ross to Daft Punk.
“Truly, honestly, if there was one person I would think about for the
music, it was him,” Gaultier told AFP at Rodgers’s seafront home in
Connecticut, the walls covered with guitars and framed records of the
producer’s hits by artists including David Bowie and The B-52s.
“He is part of my life,” Gaultier said. “Everybody loves his songs, has
danced to them, has been in love with someone because of his music.”
Rodgers — who affectionately calls the 66-year-old Gaultier, five months
his senior, “J.P.” — said that the show would feature both new music and
classic songs. But Rodgers said he plans to rework some of the
better-known tracks to
serve as underscores during the show, which will take place at the celebrated
Folies Bergere cabaret hall.
“When you’re dealing with a theatrical piece, you are absolutely dealing
with an emotional arc,” Rodgers said. “And that emotional arc may not be
served properly with the original music. It has to change a bit.”
Fashion to advance music
Gaultier has been deeply involved in the music world. In 1989, he
recorded a now-obscure dance track, “How to Do That,” his vocals
delivered in his rapid-fire, irrepressibly enthusiastic yet heavily
accented English. But his biggest influence in music came through his
work with Madonna.
He designed some of the more headline-grabbing items from her “Blond
Ambition” tour in 1990 including her bullet-like cone bra and the golden
corset she sported when she sang “Like a Virgin,” a track produced by
Gaultier, who has also designed clothes for Beyonce, Kylie Minogue, Lady
Gaga and Rihanna as well as plenty of Hollywood royalty, rocked the fashion
world by mixing up traditional gender roles and has been wildly experimental
when imagining costumes for films such as Luc Besson’s science-fiction “The
But the French designer, who was inspired as a child by playing in his
grandmother’s closet, said he saw more creativity in music.
“I don’t think of fashion as art,” Gaultier said.
“Fashion is supposed to be superficial. It’s true that by fashion you can
express yourself a little and tell things, but it’s not like music that goes
through your nose, your ears, everywhere,” he said.
“Music is something very beautiful and that we truly need, like eating.”
Creating an ’emotion’
Rodgers, sporting a white sports coat made of a collage of newspaper
prints, said he did consider fashion to be art — but saw the overwhelming
power of music.
“It’s the only art that chases you down the street,” Rodgers said.
The “Fashion Freak Show” is scheduled to run through April. Rodgers said he
imagined shaking it up frequently, including making adjustments during
intermission, and could envision creating a television version.
“What we’re trying to create is not only an experience that happens with
you, but I think an emotion that you internalize and that you take back home
with you,” Rodgers said. (AFP)
Image: courtesy of Jean-Paul Gaultier/Fashion Freak Show