Nite Trax: The fabulous creatures of Gaultier's opening gala

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Hyperproductive fashion designer and revered fantasy engineer Jean Paul Gaultier was in town last week for the opening of a (very cool) retrospective of his work at the de Young. His nightlife stops included the Some Thing drag show at the Stud on Friday, a cruisy interlude at the Powerhouse on Saturday -- and of course a lavish opening gala celebration at the de Young itself on Friday evening.

The fantastic function included an exposed "backstage" area where models were fitted into Gaultier pret-a-porter, primped, temporary-tattooed, and hairdressed with amazing sculptural headpieces by SF's Glama-Rama salon, before trotting out onto a makeshift runway. Attendees -- not all of them our city's social page elite, btw -- wore their most unusual outfits. (There were a lot of sailor stripes, man-skirts, and Gaultier looks from the past three decades.) Even the servers were decked out in handmade kaleidoscopic Krylon smocks by graffiti gallery 1:AM. Tunes from the gorgeous, killer-bobbed DJ started out retro-cute and fun, including JPG's own 1990 dancefloor hit, "How To Do That" before devolving into the standard party jams of today, which certainly got the singles (cougars) in the crowd "puttin' their hands up." It was a blast.  

Soon the raucous and always riveting Extra Action Marching Band took over, the flowing cocktails kicked in, and we drifted down to the exhibit itself, which includes eerie singing mannequins with projected faces beamed in directly from Uncanny Valley. (There's even an interactive one of Gaultier himself, which supposedly answers questions, although I think the ambient noise levelof the gala confused it.)

The amassed collection of clothing and concepts, of course, was overwhelming in its creativity and development -- although I could have done with a few more iconic items from the "Chic Rabbis" 1993 collection (personal preference!) and some more recent work, and perhaps a wee bit less emphasis on the infamous Madonna-cone bra connection. But I did tear up at the site of Gaultier's childhood teddy bear preserved in a vitrine wearing, yes, a miniature cone bra prototype.

I think the most touching thing in the show, however, was a Polaroid by Andy Warhol, taken of the young and not quite hatched Gaultier at New York's Area club in 1986. Gaultier is caught in a stairwell, a bit Joker-like in what looks to be a purple silk suit with a gold lozenge pattern and his trademark bleached blonde hair. It's accompanied by Warhol's famous quote, ""I think the way people dress today is a form of artistic expression. Saint Laurent, for instance, has made great art. Art lies in the way the whole outfit is put together. Take Jean Paul Gaultier. What he does is really art."                

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