Jean Paul Gaultier in San Francisco: The City's Gone Gaultier Wild

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The iconic Parisian designer comes to S.F. for the opening of his exhibition at the De Young Museum and discovers his legions of Northern Californian fans.

In downtown San Francisco on Friday, Nordstrom sent men in Gaultier sailor looks to the streets with male scent strip samples, and all over both the store and the museum you could hear people whispering, "Are you going to the opening gala? What are you wearing?"

The Montreal-originated exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk is opening officially Saturday March 24 (to August 19), at the De Young Museum in S.F. And while tonight is the opening gala, he hoopla began on Thursday night at the home of a popular S.F. interior designer named Ken Fulk, who hosted a dinner, burlesque performance and dance party to kick off a wild weekend of French fashion activities in the Northern California city.

Fulk, along with San Francisco philanthropist and DeYoung benefactor Dede Wilsey, welcomed Gaultier and both his Parisian and New York teams (Aeffe American exec Michelle Stein and American press rep Lisa Lawrence) with star French hair stylist Odile Gilbert -- who did all the amazing wigs for the exhibition -- to a cocktail party and dinner on Fulk's third floor studio, which packed in at least 150 people. Dita von Teese, a muse to Gaultier, sat with the designer, as did his former model and now collaborator Farida Khelfa, and C Magazine editor Jennifer Smith Hale who was in from L.A.; designer Zaldy from New York, and S.F. fashionista/philanthropist Vanessa Getty held court in a vintage Gaultier from L.A.'s Decades on Melrose Avenue. There were representatives from four cities, N.Y., S.F., L.A. and Paris -- all wearing Gaultier, of course, quite chicly.

After the dinner -- which included S.F. retailers, socials, art patrons, etc -- the crowd retired to the second floor, where Von Teese put on a surprise performance in a pink sequin corset and cowboy hat, after changing from a Gaultier gown. She wowed the crowd on a pink velvet contraption that spun around like a bucking bronco, getting down to her sparkly pasties. It was perfect for the Gaultier crowd, which loves a little titillation with its high fashion. High and low culture mashed together is what's made Gaultier the icon he is. 

The after-after party was a dance party on the first floor, which featured dancing boys in sailor hats (a Gaultier trademark and a host of very tall drag queens (including Raja, the last winner of Rupaul's Drag Race). It became a fabulous mishmash of dancing New Yorkers, San Franciscans and Angelenos young and old, most wearing new to vintage Gaultier.

The museum exhibition, which opened originally last year in Montreal, started with a members preview on Friday, and a presentation of a documentary film by Khelfa (her first film) on Gaultier and his influences. He and Khelfa introduced the film to the JPG loving crowd, who gave it a standing ovation. 

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