Considered one of fashion’s most inventive and influential designers, Jean Paul Gaultier has made significant contributions to late 20th-century fashion. Over the years, each of the designer’s collections has presented an avant-garde theme, from sailor stripes to Scottish tartans, virginal gowns to street punk style. Gaultier’s designs are nothing short of incredible, spanning four impressive decades of momentous fashion.
An Early Passion for Fashion
Gaultier’s remarkable career begins as a boy. The designer speaks often of how his childhood influenced his love for design, shaping his career as one of haute couture’s most recognized names. Under the nurturing care of his grandmother, Gaultier’s creativity flourished, his interest in fashion not only accepted, but encouraged.
Gaultier left high school in 1970 to pursue his passion, getting his start as a studio assistant for Pierre Cardin, the designer who pioneered bubble skirts, space-age bubble dresses and the modern tunic. Gaultier presented his first collection in 1976, showcasing dresses made from canvas, placemats and upholstery fabric, as well as biker jackets paired with tutus. More than two decades later, in 1997, the designer made the leap to couture, creating a house that is currently only one of eleven formally recognized by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.
Shock and Awe
Even those oblivious to the fashion world would likely recognize one of Gaultier’s most iconic designs – the cone-shaped corset Madonna wore during her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour. Fascinated by his grandmother’s delicate, silk lingerie growing up, Gaultier decided to elaborate on those timeless pieces, turning them into striking masterpieces. The designer exaggerated the cups of the corset bra, and the collection entitled Dada was born. An immediate sensation, Gaultier’s designs had transformed the once-oppressive garment into a symbol of female power and sexual freedom, something the modern woman was eager to embrace.
Astonishing Avant Garde
Regarded just as much for his exquisite skill and technique as he is for pushing the boundaries of fashion, Gaultier is known for bending gender norms and exploring taboo topics in his designs. At times, the unconventional, shocking pieces were the subject of controversy, but more often than not, the creations were met with widespread praise and acclaim. Gaultier’s designs, both initially and presently, are at once sexy and witty, utilizing classic motifs and materials in surprising and ingenious ways.