Jean Paul Gaultier’s First Designer Sneaker, Soccer-Inspired Heels and More Shoe Hits From the ’80s and ’90s Are Now on Display in France

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A new exhibition at the Musée de la Chaussure in southern France is highlighting the shoe designs of Jean Paul Gaultier from the 1980s and 1990s.

Olivier Jault, an independent footwear designer who spent years working with Gaultier, has curated the exhibit at the Musée de la Chaussure – a footwear museum located in the French shoemaking hub of Romans-sur-Isère.

“The museum asked me to curate the collection as I’ve worked with Mr. Gaultier since 2010, and I understand what he likes and how he thinks,” Jault told FN in an interview in Paris late last month. “I discovered, within the archives of Maison Gaultier, a unique and incredible heritage that, like some of my colleagues, I knew a little about as a collector. You will find astonishing style proposals and mind-blowing technical feats, in line with clothing collections at this exhibit.”

According to Jault, the exhibit, which took about two years to bring to fruition, focuses on the period when Gaultier worked with designer Stephane Kélian, one of the biggest names in footwear at the time. The duo created some of Gaultier’s most signature shoe moments from 1984 to 1996, and now a range of those styles — along with clothing items from the period, ads, invitations, clippings from fashion show catalogues, archival videos of Gaultier and Kélian, and illustrations by Thierry Perez and Pauline Binoux — are on display at the museum.

Pieces in the exhibition were pulled from the museum’s larger footwear archive and bolstered by loans from Jault as well as other seasoned collectors. These include different models of Kélian’s braided shoes, including a derby, reproduced in XXL version, as well as creations by Jean Paul Gaultier, like boots from his “Tattoo” collection.

Jean Paul Gaultier, shoe, exhibition, Stephane Kelian, France
Jean Paul Gaultier’s first designer sneaker from 1986.

Other must-sees for Jault are Gaultier’s first designer sneaker that was part of his autumn/winter 1986 “French Gigolo” collection as well as a unisex slip-on style from 1988 – which was a relatively new idea at the time to have one shoe for men and women, according to Jault.

“I wanted to show the links between the ready-to-wear and the shoes,” Jault noted when speaking about how he curated the show. “It’s about the inspiration of the collection, and the shoes, and how the story of the two come to life. I think that’s what’s interesting to people visiting this exhibit.”

Located inside a former convent of the Visitandine order, the Musée de la Chaussure has gained the moniker of the “temple of footwear,” with a collection of more than 20,000 objects in its possession.

The “Jean Paul Gaultier pour Stephane Kélian” exhibition is now open through Nov. 3, 2024.

Jean Paul Gaultier, shoe, exhibition, Stephane Kelian, France
Jean Paul Gaultier’s soccer-inspired heel from 1987.
Jean Paul Gaultier, shoe, exhibition, Stephane Kelian, France
A double-page ad from March 1984.
Musee de la Chaussure, Jean Paul Gaultier, shoe, exhibition, Stephane Kelian, France
Outside of the Musée de la Chaussure.

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