Jean-Paul Gauthier – the bad boy of the fashion world
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The 67-year-old Jean-Paul Gauthier is a real enfantterrible of French fashion, with 40 years of experience as a provocateur. He made his name, undermining the traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity with the help of the theatricality of the camp and outlandish inventions. In the 1980s, he put men in skirts, and ten years later he developed a cone-shaped bra for Madonna, which brought him worldwide fame. On the birthday of this legendary Frenchman, VogueUA tells why he is loved in the industry.

Jean-Paul Gauthier, 1987

Analyzing the life of Jean-Paul it becomes clear that the scope of his work is a true vocation. The only child of an accountant and cashier, Gauthier developed a taste for fashion at a very young age. He spent most of his childhood with his grandmother and found inspiration in her wardrobe. In particular, the designer’s iconic item – the corset – also comes from the grandmother’s wardrobe. “I was lucky that my grandmother was different in that she had black feathers, unusual corsets, and she also always gave beauty tips,” he said.

While Hubert de Givenchy was Audrey Hepburn, and Nicolas Zheskiera had Charlotte Gainsbourg, Gauthier’s main muse was always … a teddy bear. Despite his close relationship with the many women who inspired him throughout his career, it was Bear who became an early adept of many of Gauthier’s creations. “I think I was six years old. I wanted a doll, but my parents were against it. So, the surgeon Gauthier did a small operation on his teddy bear. The newspaper advertised small bras, so I decided to cut the paper and did the same. I wanted a doll — I made it. ”

Jean-Paul Gauthier, Paris 1957

Also at school age there was an incident that directly influenced the work of the future designer. Once, Jean-Paul's grandmother allowed him to watch the Folies Bergère revue on TV, an extravaganza of girls adorned with Swarovski crystals, ostrich feathers and fishnet tights. The next day at school, he drew a sketch of what he saw. According to Gauthier, his teacher was “enraged” by what he saw. She attached a picture to his back and took a “tour” of classes to humiliate. But classmates Gauthier admired his drawings and were intrigued. "It was after this that I realized that, according to my drawings, they could accept me."

Jean-Paul Gauthier with Grandma, 1958

Gauthier continued to draw sketches, and over time decided to send them to various couturiers and was noticed by Pierre Cardin, who hired him as an assistant in his studio on the eighteenth birthday of Jean-Paul. Thus, Gauthier began his career as Cardin's assistant in 1970, and then moved on to Jean Pat the following year.

Around the same time, Gauthier was also influenced by the work of Yves Saint Laurent. Cardin belongs to the generation of legendary couture houses that were built around the designer’s personality cult – a phenomenon that perhaps best embodied by Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior. These were the three names that Gauthier admired in his teens, and he sought to model his brand in the same way — his name and brand must be synonymous with each other.

Jean-Paul Gauthier, illustration for the book "A nousdeuxlamode", 1990

So, in 1976, Gauthier founded his own fashion label JeanPaulGaultier with the help of his partner both in life and in business FrancisMenuzh. Since the early 1980s, Jean-Paul has embraced a variety of areas, ranging from hypersexual to transgender. The main task of his activity was the propaganda of freedom: “Be yourself, no matter what nature or upbringing you are given.”

Soon, Gauthier became known as the “bad guy” in the fashion world. He challenged popular ideas about gender and relied on sharp street and punk trends (one of the designer’s iconic early images was a combination of a tough leather jacket with a crinoline skirt and sneakers). Gauthier put the underwear in the base of his corset dresses, which debuted in 1983. The models of the 1920s and 1940s found in the grandmother’s closet were both interpreted and made by the corset not a “prison for the female body”, but a weapon emphasizing female forms. Two years later, he presented his skirts for men – another designer’s step towards the destruction of gender stereotypes. He also challenged the industry with his shows, which earned a reputation as "overly entertaining."


Madonna in the corset of the authorship of Jean-Paul Gautier on the BlondeAmbitionTour tour, 1990
Conventionally, Gauthier’s life can be divided into two periods: the years he spent with his partner and those without him. Menouge, who was the main person in Jean-Paul's life, passed away in 1990. “I know if we didn’t meet, I wouldn’t start alone,” says Gauthier. Despite such a loss, Jean-Paul continued to move on. In the same year, he created one of his brand images for the Madonna BlondAmbitionTour world tour. She appeared on stage in a cone-shaped bustier, which raised Gauthier to the world-wide level of popularity.

JeanPaulGaultierHauteCouture Autumn-Winter 1997/1998

Gotye presented his first couture collection in 1997. Over time, Gothieux had an eye on unusual designs by the French luxury group Hermès, which hired him as a creative director in 2003, and at the same time he also worked on his own brand. Although Jean-Paul’s distinctive style fit well into the aesthetics of the fashion house, the artistic director’s position clearly limited his creative potential. Thus, he left Hermès in 2010, and four years later decided to stop producing ready-to-wear collections to focus on couture.

Frame from the film “The Fifth Element”, 1997
Frame from the film “The Fifth Element”, 1997
Frame from the film “The Fifth Element”, 1997
Frame from the film “The Fifth Element”, 1997
Frame from the film “The Fifth Element”, 1997
Frame from the film “The Fifth Element”, 1997
Frame from the film “The Fifth Element”, 1997

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Jean-Paul Gauthier is a friendly voyeur, curious and fascinated by the variety. Worlds that are not affected by fashion standardization are the basis for its stylistic expression. For Gauthier, fashion is definitely a theater, and clothing is a high drama. This sensational view can also be caused by the fact that he put on so many films, from Pedra Almodovar’s “Kika” film and “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover” by Peter Greenaway, to “The Fifth Element” by Luc Besson.

Jean-Paul Gauthier is still convinced that fashion will always occupy a special place in our life: “This is about the need for visual recognition, presentation of claims”. He considers himself a revolutionary, systematically questioning clichés, standards, codes, conventions and traditions. He turns, shifts and turns them over – even destroys them – in his quest to reinvent them. And he certainly does it.

See also:

10 provocative quotes by Jean-Paul Gautier

What we love Simon Port Jacqumes

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