June 30, 2009
After hearing so much about Jean Paul Gaultier on The Fashion Show on Bravo this pass week and seeing his inspirations everywhere I turned, I decided that he was a suitable candidate for my blog this beautiful Monday night.
I can only hope that you remember him from the infamous cone shaped bra he made for the 1990 Madonna tour, Blonde Ambition. Costumes in movies and films have been heavily influenced by this one design, including Whitney Houston’s outfit in Bodyguard ( I absolutely love that movie). However, Mr. Gaultier means way more to the fashion world than his pointy bra design. Much, much more. Let me tell you why!
Jean Gaultier was born on April 24, 1952 in Arcueil, Val-de-Mame. He is of French descent which evident from his website where I cannot get it to translate to English. His life took a different turn from a lot of other influential designers, as he was not formally trained. At the age of 18, Gaultier was sending out his couture sketches to Parisian stylists. He caught the eye of one designer, Pierre Cardin, who offered him a position as his assistant in 1970. Jean Paul happily obliged.
In 1971 he worked with Jacques Esterel and later that year Jean Patou, two famous Parisian Couture designers. He assisted Michael Gomex and then Angelo Tarlazzi. He returned to work for Pierre Cardin in Manila while working on his individual collection for the U.S.A.
He was only 24 years old in October 1976 when he created his first womenswear collection. The inspiration for his designs came from French Cultural Icons to the London streets. All his collections have said to have inspirations ( whether large or small) from Hasidic Jews and the Indian culture. This clothing line was able to launch with the backing of an unknown Japanese company.
By the middle 80’s his avant garde designs were gaining critics rave reviews. He became known as the bad boy( enfant terrible) of fashion. He was famous for implementing, what some would call, disrespectful influences in his clothing lines. However his clothing was legendary for its street style and punk references. His signature is and always will be his striped navy and white Breton fisherman’s sweater. In the 1980s he redefined a traditionally underwear garments and made them into outerwear, which is demonstrated by his corset dress of 1982.
In 1984 Jean Paul jumped right into menswear. He used his own personal experiences when shopping, claiming he couldn’t find anything he really wanted, especially in terms of sizing. Men had be reportedly buying women’s jackets because of the fabrics and cut and Jean Paul saw this as an opportunity . He made a huge spectacle of his new line during a show where men wore see through skirts and women smoked pipes down the run way, he was inspired by designers like Gianni Versace. Gaultier is also famous for using unconventional models in his shoes such as older men and full figured women(30th anniversery show), pierced and heavily tattooed models, and the obvious switching of gender roles.
Gaultier, also a master tailor, used details such as metal tipped collars and extended shoulder lines to popularize his clothing in European capitals. The tailoring of his jackets gave the wearer a whole new flattering figure, transforming their normally mundane bodies to shrines that should be envied by all.
After the success of his men’s and women’s lines he began to bring to play around with all of his ideas. In 1988 Gaultier decided to expand his brand by incorporating a lower priced line for the younger market that has a nautical influence. This line was replaced by JPG by Gaultier in 1994, a unisex line that played with the idea of blending gender lines in clothing. Gaultier also dipped his toes into the music world by releasing a house new-beat hit How to do that in 1989. He then started a line of perfumes in 1993 called Classique and two years later a men’s fragrance Le Male, which were both wildly successful all over the world. He also introduced fragrances such as Fragile, Fleur du Male, and Gaultier. Those perfumes were not as successful as his premiere fragrances, however they did gain some popularity. Jean Paul was also involved with the first series of Eurotrash , a comedy on British television. He tinkered with furniture, designing a two person chair on wheels and a dresser constructed from luggage. He designed his future collections with inspirations from random aspects of the world such as constructivism in his ’86 Russian collection, inspirations from rock stars for the ’87 collection.
Though his collection was growing in popularity and gaining in markets all over the world, at the end of the 1980’s his lover and partner Francis Menuge died due to Aids. His partner was responsible for making his designs more simple and sober, but upon his partners death, he went back to the sexy and daring clothing that made him controversial and popular.
In 1997 he did something on 2 designers in las 3 decades had done, he created a couture house under his own label. Though he was not formally trained, he worked under Parisian craftsmen who taught him the art and skills needed to highly tailored and detailed designs while still adding his own outrageous style, inspired by places such as imperial India. He is inspired by the landscapes and the faces of Indian women and their colorful clothing. He believes ” Color is life.”
In 1999 a “dream marriage” as described by Gaultier was born when Hermes invested $23 million in his business, taking ownership of 35% stake in the company. This gave Gaultier a world of opportunities to expand his brand. This unexpected union help Jean Paul take control of his licensing operations like jewelry and to expand into timepieces (which he is a collector of) and footwear, all of which would boost his international business. With the money he also renewed his fragrance license with Shiseido and Beaur Prestige Internation, in addition to the luxury hosiery firm, Wolford.
His achievements have not gone unnoticed among his peers. In 2000 he won the CRDA International Award in addition to winning the title of Chevalier, one of France’s highest honors. Because of the success of his revamped brand due to the large investment from Hermes, Jean Paul Gaultier, also named as the successor of YSL, was hired as the creative director of Hermes in 2003/2004.
More recently, in 2008 Jean Paul Gaultier partnered with with producing a premium spring water brand Evian. The team was so successful that they joined forces again and he has designed a elegant glass bottle made of Baccarat crystal that will be limited edition whose proceed will go to RAMSAR fun which protects the water resources of out planet.
With his Spring 2009 collection inspired by the style of Klaus Nomi, Jean Paul Gaultier has shown his dedication to clothing and design and not buying into the industries trends. I am impressed by his ability to be color, gender, and size blind. He is not afraid to send models down the runway with authentic afros, larger bodies, or men in skirts. He doesn’t fall for fads and trends which is why his clothing is highly controversial but also critically acclaimed. Taking risks is important in this industry, but i don’t think Jean Paul G. thinks he is taking risks with his clothing, I think he is merely portraying his vision for the world,without remorse or hesitation, to either hate it or love it; And I have to say, I’m fully on the LOVE side.
Jean Paul Gaultier, thank you for being you and staying true to your beliefs no matter what society thinks. That dedication and originally is much needed in today’s world where every celebrity and wanna-be are exact replicas of each other.
P.S. When I make a little cash, I would really love a custom made Birken, complete with feathers, leathers and the works.