till we drop | jean paul lespagnard


Photography / Thibaut Voisin

Jean Paul Pespagnard has known ever since he was a young boy that he wanted to be a fashion designer. Having studied Social Economy and Visual Arts in Liège and Luxembourg, Lespagnard naturally progressed towards clothing design. He showcased his fashion collection at the International Festival of Fashion and Photography in Hyères, France and was awarded the Public Prize and 1.2.3 Prize. With seven collections under his belt, Lespagnard has ventured into realms beyond fashion. At Galerie des Galeries in Paris, he has fashioned the Till We Drop exhibition to his own image: eccentric and socially conscious.

For his first solo exhibition, Lespagnard encourages us to journey into his creative process behind his Spring/Summer 2014 Ready-To-Wear Collection. The first passage into the exposition is through a tunnel. It imitates the feeling of waiting in line for an amusement park, as if we were entering a land of imagination. A deep voice announces, “We are preparing your safe entrance into Jean Paul Lespagnard’s Till We Drop Exhibition… keep on walking and wait for assistance at the orange desk. Thank you for your co-operation.”

Photography / Thibaut Voisin

Photography / Thibaut Voisin

Sure enough, an orange desk waits at the end of the tunnel, where “park” guests receive a map of the exhibition. The first feature of the park is a photo collection titled “Don’t Worry Bee Happy.” Dressed as the cartoon character Maya the Honey Bee, Lespagnard is seen wandering the sights of Mexico. “I took the pictures two years ago when I was researching for my fashion collection. I went to the Mayan Temple, dressed as Maya,” Lespagnard smiled. “It’s like when you go to Disneyworld and you wear Mickey’s ears, except here, I’m a bee.”

People were very enthusiastic about the project in Mexico, and were intrigued by Lespagnard, asking why he was dressed in a bumblebee costume. The exhibition highlights the excess of life at the giant Mayan Riviera hotels and articulates his perspective on this man-made paradise, a world soaked in excitement and freedom. When asked what his vision of paradise is, Lespagnard answered: “It’s a good mix between heaven and hell. When I’m talking about this kind of excess, I really like being in a club full of completely drunk people. On the other hand, I like being seated in the jungle with monkeys around me. These are complete opposites, but I need this kind of mix.”

Photography / Thibaut Voisin

Photography / Thibaut Voisin

The Picture Carousel is next, where Lespagnard’s clothing designs are featured on stand-in cutouts. Visitors can put their faces in the cutout holes and be a part of Lespagnard’s creations. “This is my giant, live look book,” the designer said. “I really enjoy the fact that the public can participate in what I do. I don’t like it when people are seated and submissive at the fashion show.”

The final stop in the park is the Souvenir Shop, where “tourists” can grab Lespagnard’s creations at souvenir store prices. They sell everything from bejeweled soda helmets and dollar bill towels, to bumblebee costumes and postcards. After a guided tour provided by Lespagnard, Schön! asked few questions on his work.

Why did you decide to call your exhibition Till We Drop?

It’s all about the building of buildings for tourists in Riviera Maya in Mexico. It feels like this development will never stop. The title was a play on the idea, “Shop ‘til you drop,” but more of “Build ‘til you drop.” My fashion collection and this exhibition is a conversation about excess.

How is costume design different from ready-to-wear?

I see the studio as more of a creative space. The costumes I design for dance performances can influence the workshops I put on for children, and this workshop, in turn, can influence my fashion collections.

Tell me about your workshops with children.  

I teach them how to make clothes, but it depends on how long the workshops are. I love the spontaneity, freshness, and innocence of children. In one workshop, the children and I worked with fake flowers. It influenced me to create a costume for Yelle. These costumes influenced me to create another collection. We all share ideas.

Why do you have an astrology site linked to “Future” on your website? 

There are a lot of people asking me what the trend is for next season and I tell them I don’t know. I’m working on what’s happening now. I’m not looking at the future.

Jean Paul Lespagnard’s Till We Drop Exhibition is at Galerie des Galeries in Paris, France from January 29 – April 5, 2014. For more information click here.

Words / Sheri Chiu

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