“Par transpositions, détournement, et assemblages, il donne forme à des métissages transfrontières. Les mondes et les individus déparés par le barrage de la langue, des coutumes et de la géographiese fondent en un univers dont le passeport est tamponné “Planète JPG”. Le couturier orchestre par le vêtement le dialogue entre les cultures et les races. (…) Ces silouettes composites illustrent symboliquement à quel point le brassage des peuples enrichit le patrimoine culturel et artistique d’un pays”. (Jungle Urbaine in La planète mode de Jean Paul Gaultier, p. 272-273). 

Gaultier’s creative process involves traveling, figuratively or literally. “Reading” his designs or experiencing his fashion shows invites the viewer to jump into the narrative of an exotic voyage. Both designer and viewers are invited on a journey breaking cultural boundaries. It is these aesthetic and narrative qualities of ethnic dresses that seem to have motivated their incorporation in to Jean Paul Gaultier’s collections, such as in Le Grand Voyage (prêt-à-porter FW 1994-1995), La Chine et l’Espagne (Haute Couture FW 2001-2001), Homage à l’Afrique (Haute Couture SS 2005), Mexico (Haute Couture SS 2010) and more recently, Voyage, Voyage (prêt-à-porter FW 2010-11). The latter being one of his most hybrid collections, mixing pattern and styles from Chinese, Berber and Mexican traditional costumes.

The aim of utilizing the Other is to invite the viewer to travel and experience a sense of global awareness that is highly bodily, phenomenological and performative.

Gaultier’s commitment to detail echoes French thinker Roland Barthes’ understanding of fashion as a semiotic system: “fashion as a system where a group or set of related or associated garments come together to a create a unity or complex whole.” (Black 2009, 499). Each detail contributes to foster the “whole” – the narrative- thus every accessory selected by JPG harvest the larger narrative of his creations. This is the case for the cigar and the mariachi band employed in his SS 2010 Mexico fashion show.

LE GRAND VOYAGE : Prêt-à-porter, Fall-Winter 1994

Jean Paul Gaultier mixes Asian textiles and patterns to evoke an Oriental journey that is not specific to one single culture.

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Jean Paul Gaultier, Le Grand Voyage, women prêt-à-porter, Fall Winter 1994-95 (Model: Njork)

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Jean Paul Gaultier, Le Grand Voyage, women prêt-à-porter, Fall Winter 1994-95

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Jean Marie Périer, Untitled, Elle France, 1994, Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Grand Voyage, FW 1994-95

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Jean Paul Gaultier, Le Grand Voyage, prêt-à-porter, Fall Winter 1994-95, MET

LA CHINE ET L’ESPAGNE : Haute Couture Fall 2001

Jean Paul Gaultier provokes a cultural clash and blurs the  frontiers categorizing and distancing traditional costumes from different countries by integrating both cuts and patterns from China and Spain in the same collection.

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HOMAGE À L’AFRIQUE : Haute Couture Spring 2005

Jean Paul Gaultier integrates African patterns from various tribes and countries and gowns shaped  like African totems to convey a sense of travel across the entire African continent.

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MEXICO : Haute Couture Spring Summer 2010

This highly performative show included a mariachi bands, while ensembles mixed gauchos patterns (South American cattle herder), sombreros, striped peasant blankets, Spanish shawls, and cigars. Gaultier transposed on each garment a part of a complex narrative inviting the viewers to travel back in time along Spanish history: the conquistador, the jungle and natives.

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VOYAGE VOYAGE : Prêt-à-porter Fall Winter 2010

Voyage Voyage one of Gaultier’s most hybrid collections, mixing pattern and styles from Chinese, Eastern European, Berber and Mexican traditional costumes. One ensemble mixes an African-print turban with  chinoiseries on a kimono-silk lining, while another brings together a babushka (headscarf), a Masai necklace (evoking Kayan Lahwi giraffe women), a leather motorcycle jacket and a Mexican-blanket skirt.

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Jean Paul Gaultier borrowed traditional Bulgarian garment in his collection Voyage Voyage.

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Inez van lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin (Crystal Renn and Joan Smalls), Jean Paul Gaultier’s Voyage Voyage campaign


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