Fashion designer continues to get involved: Jean Paul Gaultier – in the beginning there was the bag corset

Fashion designer continues to get involved
Jean Paul Gaultier – in the beginning there was the bag corset

As a student, he made a kind of bikini with conical shapes for his stuffed bear – a forerunner of his famous corsets, which caused a stir in the 90s. To this day, Jean Paul Gaultier is often called the “enfant terrible” of the fashion world. Now he is 70 years old – and has only half withdrawn from it.

Self-taught, anti-conformist and visionary: Jean Paul Gaultier revolutionized the idea of ​​beauty and, with his event parades, pushed the boundaries between fashion and spectacle. With a haute couture parade that is second to none, the star designer surprisingly said goodbye to the world of high tailoring more than two years ago. But not quite. Gaultier, who turns 70 on April 24, continues to be involved with new projects.

He will do something else, but definitely something to do with fashion, because he can’t do anything else, he said after his gigantic farewell show on January 22, 2020. Just a few weeks later, he announced a new concept: the reinterpretation of his creations by different designers. He already had this idea in the 90s, the magazine “Elle” quoted the star designer as saying. In this way, Gaultier is passing on its heritage and know-how. Or as he puts it: The Gaultier brand will continue to exist, but without him. Today, the house of Gaultier is majority-owned by the Spanish Puig Group, which also owns the fashion brand Nina Ricci.

The first to dare to reinterpret his art in collaboration with Gaultier was the Japanese Chitose Abe for the Fall-Winter 2021/2022 Haute Couture shows last July. The result: corset dresses with tennis stripes.

Breaking a taboo with eccentric creations

Tutus for men, corsets with pointed bras, sailor suits and minimal outfits for women: the couturier has always been ahead of its time. With his eccentric creations he broke taboos, questioned conventions and the concept of beauty. This also meant that he not only brought long-legged models onto the catwalk, but also normal people off the street: fat, thin, old, young, black and white.


Mini skirt with suspenders: Model at the Gaultier Men In Skirts runway show in London in February 2002.

(Photo: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb)

Gaultier has long been considered the “enfant terrible” of the fashion world. He describes himself more as a “contestataire”, an opponent of the system who shifts and blasts clichés, norms and traditions in order to better reconstruct them, as he told the Belgian newspaper “L’Echo”. Because many of his designs convey political messages about gender equality and freedom.

“When I proposed a skirt for men, I saw that men were changing and ready to show their feminine side,” he told France Today magazine. “When I made a corset dress, I saw that my girlfriends were starting to wear bras again after their moms burned their bras in the ’70s and they wanted to be sexy on their own terms,” ​​he continued.

How he found fashion

Gaultier was born on April 24, 1952 near Paris. The mother was a secretary and the father was an accountant. He wasn’t exactly a ace at school. To this day he still likes to tell the anecdote about how he found drawing and fashion. It begins with a new dance show by the Parisian cabaret Folies Bergère, which he was allowed to watch on television and which impressed him so much that the next day he drew a woman with feathers at school.


Madonna in July 1990 on her “Blond Ambition World Tour” in a bag bustier by Jean Paul Gaultier.

(Photo: picture alliance / dpa)

This marked the beginning of an early career: barely 18 years old, he sent his sketches to the most famous fashion designers in Paris. Pierre Cardin was the first to recognize his talent. The legendary fashion designer hired him as an assistant in 1970. Gaultier launched his own line at the age of 24, and in 1978, just two years later, he founded his eponymous fashion house. He became an international star with the cone-breasted corset he designed for Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition tour.

Today Jean Paul Gaultier has achieved everything that can be achieved in the glamorous world of fashion. His haute couture collections have made history, as have his spectacular fashion shows, such as in 2014 with drag queen Conchita Wurst as a catwalk mannequin. To thunderous applause, the bearded winner of the Eurovision Song Contest solemnly presented a long black dress adorned with red and gold ornaments. The show was all about the morbid: the background of the catwalk was a kind of crypt, lit by candles.

His fashion also hangs in the museum


The bag breast can also be found in his perfume bottles (here in Munich in 2015 in the exhibition “From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk”).

(Photo: picture alliance / dpa)

In the perfume segment, Gaultier brought one classic after the other onto the market, he launched a make-up line with eye pencil and powder compact for men. His fashion is not just worn. With the exhibition “From The Sidewalk To The Catwalk” (from the sidewalk to the catwalk) she also moved into international museums.

Why did Gaultier say goodbye to haute couture more than two years ago? He founded his house at a time when there was freedom of clothing, he told Elle magazine. It was fun, inventive and creative. For him, political correctness leveled everything. Fashion today is slick, he said. But only a few weeks ago he caused a stir with his designs on Heidi Klum’s casting show “Germany’s Next Top Model”. Gaultier had created skimpy leather underwear with a lot of bare skin for the young models.