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Designer Love: Jean Paul Gaultier

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.

The designer turns the haute couture world on its head

The designer turns the haute couture world on its head

 

Gaultier at his headquarters

Gaultier at his headquarters

Paris-Glasgow-Delhi gown from Gaultier’s Paris and Its Muses collection

Paris-Glasgow-Delhi gown from Gaultier’s Paris and Its Muses collection

A sampling of Gaultier’s most influential designs

A sampling of Gaultier’s most influential designs

Les Vierges Spring/Summer 2007 collection Apparitions dress

Les Vierges Spring/Summer 2007 collection Apparitions dress

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.

Designs from the Spring/Summer 2012 line

Designs from the Spring/Summer 2012 line

Opulent Native American inspired gown displayed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Opulent Native American inspired gown displayed at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Fishnet tights from the Parisiennes collection

Fishnet tights from the Parisiennes collection

Dolores gown features lace, layers of tulle, and intricate appliques

Dolores gown features lace, layers of tulle, and intricate appliques

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.

The famous bodysuit with conical bra cups Madonna wore during her Blond Ambition tour

The famous bodysuit with conical bra cups Madonna wore during her Blond Ambition tour

Sketch for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour

Sketch for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour

Checkered body suit from Gaultier’s Fall Winter 1991-1992 collection

Checkered body suit from Gaultier’s Fall Winter 1991-1992 collection

Immaculata design features bondage-inspired headpiece

Immaculata design features bondage-inspired headpiece

Dita von Teese in a scintillating Gaultier creation

Dita von Teese in a scintillating Gaultier creation

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.

Gaultier challenges gender norms with this Autumn/Winter 2014 design

Gaultier challenges gender norms with this Autumn/Winter 2014 design

Tanel Bedrossiantz in a dress from the Barbès Fall/Winter 1984-1985 collection

Tanel Bedrossiantz in a dress from the Barbès Fall/Winter 1984-1985 collection

Immaculée #3 from the Virgins collection

Immaculée #3 from the Virgins collection

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