For over half a century, the enfant terrible of fashion, Jean Paul Gaultier, challenged the conventions of couture and the landscape of fashion.
The French designer has created some of the most enduring images in fashion history, from Madonna’s conical bustier to Breton stripes. A true innovator, he often employed street casting and showcased diverse models long before ‘inclusivity’ was an industry buzzword.
As well as running his eponymous label since its debut in 1976, Gaultier was creative director of Hermès from 2003 to 2010 and collaborated with streetwear brand Supreme on a ready-to-wear collection in 2019.
His out-of-this-world creations found their way into pop culture, music and cinema. He also created a cult favourite television series, Eurotrash, with fellow Frenchman Antoine de Caunes.
But all good thing must come to an end and alas, 67-year-old Gaultier is retiring. The designer just took his final bow as he presented his last collection during Couture Fashion Week in Paris. You can view the full collection here.
In homage to the news, here are seven of Gaultier’s most influential moments in fashion.
Bondage/Underwear As Outerwear
The designer had a fascination with corsetry and lingerie — something that was never-before-seen as fit for fashion and haute couture — he helped make it acceptable to wear underwear in public.
Jean Paul Gaultier loved showing off body shapes with his figure-hugging and structured pieces. His body-shaped perfume bottles have become synonymous with his brand.
The Conical Bustier
Gaultier’s cone bra is emblematic of much of his design ethos: controversial, gender-inquisitive and humorous. Made famous by Madonna during her Blond Ambition world tour in the nineties, the conical corset is one of the most iconic designs in the past century.
Man skirts were first presented as part of his Et Dieu Créa l’Homme (And God Created Man) collection in 1985, wide-leg trousers with a wrap-over panel created the illusion of the skirt, challenging masculinity and questioning clothing stereotypes.
Diversity On The Runway
Gaultier is one of the pioneers for diversity on the runway. In the 1980s he placed an ad in the French newspaper, Libération, seeking: “[a]typical models. The facially disfigured should not refrain from applying”. Beth Ditto, Conchita Wurst and Farida Khelfa are some of the most memorable models to walk the Jean Paul Gaultier runway.
The classic aesthetic of navy stripes was inspired by a piece in his childhood wardrobe and the 1982 West German-French film, Querelle, centred on a sailor. He famously adapted this aesthetic for his first prêt-à-porter collection for men.
Gaultier has long toyed with religious iconography and even took a ‘Chic Rabbi’ collection to the runway in the early nineties.
While we are saddened that Gaultier is leaving the spotlight, the legacy he created will live on. We wish him all the best for his retirement.