Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier l’enfant terrible de la mode. From the uniform of the masses to the dreamlike fashions showcased in his catwalk shows, Jean Paul Gaultier remains convinced that fashion will always have a special place in our lives: “It’s about a need for visual recognition, staking a claim”.
But the couturier refuses to be defined as either political or provocative. A man of conviction, he sees himself more as a revolutionary, stematically calling into question clichés, standards, codes, conventions and traditions. He turns, shifts and flips them round – even destroys them – in his bid to reinvent them.
Paris is the promised land for the suburbanite captivated by the theatre of life. As a couturier, he never tires of unveiling all the richness by looking with fresh eyes at the City of Light, a subject that’s inspired artists countless times before.
But the shining city burning bright with the light of luxury is not enough for him. He also loves the grey and white haze, the wet pavements, the working-class neighborhoods and the murkier areas. With Gaultier, Paris and its vibrant suburbs merge with the glittering circles of high society.
Two particular highlights characterize the work of Jean Paul Gaultier: the reinvented corset and the man skirt. Rummaging in the wardrobe of his maternal grandmother, Marie, he unearthed corsets from the 20th century and waspies from the 1940s. By redesigning the corset, he could make anyone feel more feminine. Far from being an instrument of torture, imprisoning women’s bodies, the corset now embodies female power.
Even from the early 1980s, Jean Paul Gaultier covered diverse genres, encompassing everything from the hyper-sexual to the transgender. And he promotes an impressive message of freedom: be yourself, whatever traits nature and nurture may have bestowed upon you! He has used models with character instead of skinny Swedish blondes. The street castings he organizes serve to complete the selection already made by the modeling agencies.
Jean Paul Gaultier is a benign voyeur, curious about everything and fascinated by difference. Worlds untouched by the standardization of fashion are grounds for stylistic expression. By transposing, distorting and assembling, he succeeds in cross-border blending. As early as the Return of Prints collection (Women’s RTW Spring/Summer 1984), Gaultier was mixing the African and the European, draping his models in tunics or kaftan miniskirts and accessorizing them with a fez.
Even as a child, Jean Paul Gaultier loved the cinema and music hall. Fashion interested him only in as far as it allowed him to put on a show. Now he designs a wide range of costumes for film, dance and theatre. No doubt, the secret of his popularity comes from his ability to listen and to collaborate with other artists.