The world of Jean Paul Gaultier

The world of Jean Paul Gaultier

The baddest of’em all!

The description „enfant terrible“ has followed Jean Paul Gaultier (the son of two accountants) arround for over 20 years. Now nudging 65 years old, Gaultier does 60 daily press-ups and sports cropped peroxide-blond hair. Gaultier's career commenced on his eighteenth birthday when he was employed as a sketcher at Pierre Cardin. A year later he moved to Esterel, then to Jean Patou, where he worked for two years- first with Michael Gomez, then Angelo Tarlazzi- before returning to Cardin, based in the fashion backwater of Manila in the Philippines. The notorious designer returned to Paris in 1976 and began making electronic jewelry with his partner, Francis Menuge, and in 1978 presented his first fashion collection without success.

„I was a joke for three years“, he told Sunday Express in 1978. „And in France to be a joke is not funny.“

He hit stride in the mid 1980's generating reams of newspaper copy with his catwalk escapades, conical corsetry and skirst for men (groundbreaking at the time!). The latter, he claimed at the time, resulted in sales of 3000 skirts world-wide. Vogue described an early collection as a „motley fusion of punk pilferings, slattern sophistication and B-movie anecdotes“ (ouch!).

His finest hour was dressing the queen of pop- Madonna- in a mix of satin corsetry and black bondage for her Blonde Ambition Tour of 1990. No one could accuse Gaultier of being a one-trick pony. He successfully produced both mens and womenswear, diffusion and couture. He has run the gamut from fetishistic fabrics (rubber and PVC) to conventional wools and cotton/Lycra. His first fur collection was unveiled in 1998. He has worked several times with choreographer Regine Chopinot, dressed countless pop stars and even (believe it or not!) released his own album of house music „How to do that?“ with Tony Mansfield in 1989. He was no stranger to costume design, so let us remember his cinematic costume credits that include City of the Lost Children (1995), Luc Besson's The Fifth Element (1997) and, the one that was probably most suited to his style, Peter Greenaway's 1989 celebration of decadence, The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover. Gaultier's autobiography A Nous Deux la Mode, published in 1990, was suitably kitsch both in content and cover, with the designer posing in nautical striped T-shirt, surrounded by flowers. In 1999 he was the first French fashion designer to go online.

A self-confessed Anglophile, who is more likely to be found rummaging in Camden market than admiring historical exhibits, Gaultier co-hosted Eurotrash, a saucy tabloid television show, during the 1990's. He appeared weekly, invariably wearing a kilt and a wide grin, and played up his French accent for all it was worth.

In 1997, his first haute couture collection revealed a host of hidden attributes- restraint for one- and received (finally!) favourable reviews. In one of his earliest Vogue appearances he said, „My affinities are with the young and unorthodox, so I create costumes that break rules, go over the top if you like…“ Irony is still his specialty. Long may his quirkiness continue.

Amra Zvizdić
Fashion Editor