Jean Paul Gaultier: French fashion icon turns 70

28 Apr

Crowning finale: A parade of haute couture

The model Winnie Harlow (photo), the burlesque dancer Dita von Teese and the Spanish actress Rossy de Palma were only three of 200 models that Jean Paul Gaultier sent across the catwalk in a last brilliant haute couture show in 2020. Fortunately, it took place in front of an audience in Paris' Theatre du Chatelet shortly before the first lockdown of the pandemic.


Re-imaging a French classic

The iconic designer imbued his signature striped creations with inimitable flair, but he didn't just create catwalk fashion. The Parisian also designed costumes for film, including Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. "There is a life — many lives — after fashion," Gaultier said at his farewell two years ago at the Theatre Chatelet, promising a "new concept" for his couture and perfume empire.


Leaving the runway

Even among the extravagant fashion crowd, Gaultier is considered over-the-top. For over 50 years, he soaked up influences from art, music, film and pop culture before transforming them into wearable creations. The French king of couture announced his retirement from designing haute couture fashion collections in 2019, his final show having been held on January 22, 2020 in Paris.


Stellar career

Gaultier had no formal training as a fashion designer, but he knew what he wanted. He boldly sent sketches to the most prestigious fashion labels in Paris, his home city — and it worked. Pierre Cardin took him on as an assistant in 1970, marking the beginning of his glamorous career. Six years later, Gaultier introduced the first collection of his own.


Outfits for provocative women

Jean Paul Gaultier quickly established his reputation as the enfant terrible of the fashion world. His daring designs came to represent the radical liberation of provocative femininity. He's shown here presenting a collection with burlesque model Dita von Teese at the Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week in 2010.


Playful creations

The designer knows how to creatively play with color and material. As a child, Gaultier often spent time in his grandmother's beauty salon and observed everything that can be done with makeup. He works not only with ultra slender models, but also with older women, with larger girls, with girls with piercings. Shown above is model Amanda Lear.


Styling the superstars

The designer has created concert wear for top celebrities like Beyoncé, Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Johnny Hallyday. Pictured here is the bullet bra Madonna wore during her 1990 "Blond Ambition" tour, which turned heads even in the boundary-breaking world of pop music. Gaultier also has strong ties with the film world: He was even president of the Cannes film festival jury in 2012.


Trademark stripes

Every big designer has a trademark. For Gaultier, it was stripes — particularly striped sailor shirts, as worn here by photographers Pierre and Gilles. Gaultier was inspired by Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Querelle" (1982), a cult movie in the gay scene about a handsome and devious Belgian sailor. Sailor outfits became a staple in Gaultier's collections.


Boundless imagination

This haute couture gown reveal Gaultier's both flashy and elegant sides. He was the first to send androgynous models onto the catwalk and design scoop necks and skirts for men. He said he's always appreciated beauty that is unique. "You shouldn't hide behind fashion, but show yourself."


Author: Heike Mund, Paula Rösler

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