Kylie Minogue. Picture: Pascal Le Segretain

French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier has been the agent provocateur of the fashion world since his very first shows in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

His designs have graced the bodies of superstars, from Madonna to Kylie Minogue and Dita Von Teese.

He's renowned for putting diverse models on his runways, from septuagenarian divas to transgender beauties.

Now he is coming to Australia to attend the Australian premiere of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, which will open at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in October.

The exhibition has already drawn about a million visitors during its tenure at galleries in New York, London and Montreal.

There will, however, be some exclusively Australian-themed content in the Melbourne show - namely, gowns worn by Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman and Minogue.

The exhibition's curator and former model Thierry-Maxime Loriot laughs when he recalls Gaultier rejecting him at a casting for one of his shows.

Loriot says Gaultier wanted male models with long hair for the show but at that stage Loriot had more of a "classic" look.

"When I met him that first time, he said 'Oh no, too handsome'," Loriot says. "I didn't take it personally and now the beauty of it is that we're working together."

At Gaultier's recent show during Paris Fashion Week he again sent older models down the runway, punking-up grey-haired catwalkers with biker jackets, tartan, mohawks and bouffants.

Like his contemporary, the now-disgraced designer John Galliano, Gaultier is fond of adopting a costume to take his end-of-show runway bow - this time around he was dressed as an astronaut.

The NGV show will feature more than 140 garments, from the first dress Gaultier created in 1971 to some from his most recent couture collections.

Kidman was actually Gaultier's first couture client and the designer says he feels a special affinity for his Australian devotees.

"Preparing this exhibition I have realised how strong my ties to Australia are," Gaultier says.

"I have also been working for many years with models such as Gemma Ward, Catherine McNeil, Jarrod Scott and the list goes on. The people are what make this country great and you Australians certainly excel."

The surrealist Medee gown that Minogue wore to open her X world tour in 2008 and 2009 will also be part of the exhibition.

"He's a visionary and his skill at creating drama and fantasy are second to none," Minogue said in a message sent to the NGV.

"On top of that, his kindness and humour shine through in all that he does. He's a dear friend and an icon of design. Long may he reign!"

The exhibition is split into seven themes that reflect Gaultier's influences and obsessions, from the street styles and subcultures of Paris and London to his impact on world cinema (he designed costumes for Luc Besson's sci-fi classic The Fifth Element and Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education).

The show will also feature Gaultier's collaborations with artists and photographers such as Andy Warhol and Mario Testino.

The Odyssey section focuses on sailors, mermaids and religious iconography and features stage costumes worn by Beyonce and dresses created for Catherine Deneuve and Marion Cotillard to wear to the Oscars.

Bras and corsets made for Madonna's Blond Ambition world tour and 2012 MDNA tour are highlights in The Boudoir section, while a chiffon-camouflage dress worn by Sarah Jessica Parker at the 2000 MTV Movie Awards features as part of the Punk Cancan section.

While other designers may have overtaken Gaultier as the favourite of the fashion editors in recent years, he has, like kindred spirit Vivienne Westwood, maintained a loyal following and devoted couture clientele.

For anyone interested in the history of contemporary fashion - to which Gaultier has contributed so much - this will be an exhibition not to miss.

The West Australian

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