Jean Paul Gaultier is self taught and began his career at the age of eighteen working for Pierre Cardin, after sending him some fashion sketches. This time with Cardin inspired Gaultier not to limit himself, that anything is possible. It was followed by stints working with Jacques Esterel and Patou, yet he found these houses too conservative and backwards in their thinking. They wouldn’t do anything to shock the American clientel even having black models, Gaultier could only bear to work for these companies for a short period. It was in 1976 that Gaultier first launched his clothing line.
Gaultier was heavily influenced by street fashion and London style in particular. In a recent interview he said, ‘I’ve always felt more at home in the UK than in France…in France people always have to be serious, tasteful and adhere to ‘the code’’ He loved the ripped, reworked, lost and found, do-it-yourself London aesthetic of the late seventies. There was no strict chic dress code to adhere to, anything goes. His early creations looked haphazard, and he employed models of various, shape, size, age and ethnicities. He championed the outsider, he embraced uniqueness, there is not just one way to be beautiful. Pictured below, he uses Eve Salvail, a beautiful model with a shaved and tattooed head in his campaigns, whilst other labels were reluctatnt to book her.
Gaultier loves juxtaposition. He would make workman dungarees from floaty satin fabric and an elegant evening gown made from cable knit. He will use unexpected pairings in his clothes such as heeled trainers or a sweater that was also evening wear. He makes unusual combinations with opposing textures such as metal and leather with delicate silk chiffon, like his 1994 Joan of Arc dress, that had contrasting feminine corsetry with the very androgynous image of Joan of Arc in heavy armour, the metal weighing down on the delicate fabric.
Gaultier famously likes to play around with gender, he challenges the accepted code of dress for men and women. By the eighties, after Yves Saint Laurent’s smoking jackets and woody Allen’s Annie Hall, it was perfectly acceptable for women to wear masculine clothes, however, Gaultier wanted to go the other way. Rather than simply unisex in which the sexes were blurred, Gaultier put his men in corsets, skirts and high heels. The menswear focuses on homoeroticism, emphasising the broad shoulders and slim hips of the beautiful male form. He repeatedly used the nautical theme, the sailor in tight trousers, an extremely homoerotic image. Famously, Gaultier's beautiful perfume bottles, were shaped like a ripped male torso with the sailor stripe.
|2001/2002 menswear campaign.|
Jean paul Gaultier, loves the seedy underbelly of culture. He embraces sexuality and all it's various forms, his catwalks appear like dingy sex clubs displaying sadomasochistic, voyeuristic models put out there as a celebration. More recently he teamed up with burlesque super star Dita Von Teese, who wore an extremely provocative, restricting outfit for his autumn Winter 2011 collection.
Gaultier has also designed for film, putting Helen Mirren in his iconic cage dress, for The cook, the theif, His wife and her lover, by Peter Greenaway. Another sexually depraved film of multiple partners and cannibalism.
He also made the beautifully futuristic costume for Luc Besson's Fifth Element.
Gaultier had a famous collaboration with Madonna in the 90s. At the time, she was the epitome of the powerful, ambitious, sexual woman. She has now become synonymous with Jean Paul Gaultier's iconic conical bra. He designed the costumes for her provocative Blond Ambition tour when she was going through her 'Sex' period and married to Sean Penn. She famously bared her breasts whilst walking for him on the catwalk. It is clear that he loves strong women and admires the female form.
Gaultier's career has gone from strength to strength and he was able to follow his dream and of opening a couture house in 1997, which has allowed him to really display his creativity, without the financial contraints of Ready-to-Wear. With the resurgent interest of everything nineties recently, Jean paul Gaultier is still one of the most popular and successful designers in the world. And possibly my favourite designer in the whole wide world!!