Beginning with SS84’s L’homme-Object, the rebel subject’s first menswear collection, and running to AW94’s Le grand Voyage, if you need it spelled out we’re talking Jean Paul Gaultier, whose penchant for challenging codes, reworking and infusing them with ideas of his own established him as the most provocative designer of his generation. Taking in an eclectic combination of historical references, eroticism, irony and transgressive behaviour, Gaultier stands out to this day with a back catalogue of some of the most covetable (and hard to find) runway pieces around. Owning a dollar bill printed mesh shirt, nautical trouser dungarees or fluro-sequined knit from his earlier collections is high up on any fashion enthusiast worth their salt’s wish-list. And now uselessly trawling eBay or drooling over past catwalk images on Tumblr can be forgotten for a while, thanks to House of Liza’s painstakingly put together rail.
If you haven’t visited Velosa yet, or dropped in online at Farfetch, you’re missing out BIG STYLE. There’s a feast of killer pieces up for grabs from the likes of Stephen Sprouse, Wild & Lethal Trash, Comme des Garçons, Kansai Yamamoto, JC de Castelbajac and more. A move of Mortal Kombat-style hadouken sees this Jean Paul Gaultier Vault, consisting of 50 never-worn-before, mostly runway and editorial pieces available to buy exclusively in store, including the infamous cone bra knit dress from the Le Charme coincé de la Bourgeoisie AW85 womenswear collection (aka museum-grade Gaultier!) There’s notable menswear too, including a selection of sequinned pieces from JPG’s tribute to the Russian Constructivist art movement, AW86 and a floral top from SS91, Adam et Ève, Rastas d’Aujourd’hui.
Thomas Davis: Gaultier has been on the French fashion scene since around the mid 1970s, at what point did you become interested in his work?
Gonçalo Velosa: I lived in Paris during the latter part of the 80s where I met the most incredible artist duo: sisters Volpina and Targus de Castilho. They studied fashion at that time and hung out with the Mugler and Gaultier entourage. The Castilho sisters don’t have aesthetic boundaries and really became my visual gurus. So I have been wearing Gaultier since my late teens in the 80s!
TD: The archive sale spans the designer’s early career, starting with his first menswear collection L’homme-Object (SS84) all the way to AW94’s Le grand Voyage. What was it about this specific period which made you want to collect and archive?
GV: During what can be said to be Gaultier’s zenith, the 80s and early 90s, there was a sense of excitement and economic explosion, which led to what can be described as either depraved lavishness or decadent abundance. Gaultier’s subversive clothes from that period challenged orthodox views. His presentation of gender and the way we view it was a challenge to all the “rules” of the Parisian couture world!
TD: What were you doing yourself at this time?
GV: I was living between Porto (Portugal) and Paris. I did my studies in furniture design and worked most of the 90s designing exhibitions, but I guess I spent a huge amount of my time clubbing and dressing-up.
TD: What about founding the House of Liza?
GV: During my degree at the London College of Fashion, I realised that I was more interested in the visual and social context of fashion. It was then that I realised I preferred working with other designers’ creations rather than creating my own collections. In fact I have always been drawn to the most visionary designers, or the more obscure. I am interested in the story behind the clothes, the life of their creators, the circumstances. So I started collecting as a form of research, to the point of which I had to start selling some of my pieces in order to buy new ones. All that leads to the opening of a shop.
TD: How do you select pieces for the House of Liza? Do you have a specific criteria or time frame?
GV: My criteria is that I must fall in love with the piece first. But for me to really appreciate a piece it has to be unique and represent the epitome of a particular period, innovation or designer’s career. There is a strong bias towards the 80s and early 90s, which again reflects my personal tastes and life.
TD: The Vault sale consists of 50 never worn, runway and editorial pieces. How did you amass such a rare collection?
GV: Like a good junkie I need my daily fix! So I get high with the thrill of finding treasures!
TD: You have the infamous cone bra knit dress from the Le Charme coincé de la Bourgeoisie AW85 womenswear collection. Is there an equivalent piece within Gaultier’s menswear collections you own or equally admire?
GV: A skirt from his SS85 collection Et Dieu créa l’homme! Since his first menswear collection in 1984, Jean-Paul Gaultier has constantly questioned traditional ideas about men’s appearance and behaviour, but he made his most definitive statement on the subject with that same skirt.
TD: Do you have any pieces that you’d never sell?
GV: I have been known for selling pieces I said I would never sell!
TD: What would be the holy grail of Gaultier for you to own personally?
GV: The costumes of Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. I read Helen Mirren kept a few pieces, I should give her a call!
Above: Helen Mirren in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989) featuring costumes throughout by Jean Paul Gaultier.
TD: Through buying pieces from House of Liza, people can actually wear a covetable piece of fashion history. What is your opinion on wearing these clothes rather than exhibiting garments in museums?
GV: I definitely think the pieces should be worn. For me there’s nothing like seeing people on the street with a unique sense of style. Fashion has the power to convey so many messages. Look at Madonna, her career was built on a clever appropriation of cutting-edge fashion that is provocative, yet alluring. But having said that I also think it is important to preserve and conserve some of the most influential pieces so that future generations can have first-hand access to better understand the evolution of fashion and craftsmanship.
TD: The vision of Gaultier, alongside Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana changed the outlook of the fashion world in the 80s. Are there any other designers who you specifically admired for the impact they made on menswear?
GV: Walter Van Beirendonck’s 90s collections for W< expressed a crucial understanding of the future now. Integrating multidisciplinary design and new technologies, the innovative W< fashion world went beyond clothes and for sure had an impact on menswear.