Best known for his eponymous design house and his seven-year tenure as head designer at Hermes, Jean Paul Gaultier is the resident L'enfant Terrible of fashion for his penchant for challenging the then-standard views of fashion, reworking them and infusing ideas of his own.
The British Vogue reported that Gaultier's work has been characterised by a "stylistic consistency since his very first collection". Looking through past runway show images as well as the countless YouTube videos from the various fashion weeks, one can tell that, in many of his collections, Gaultier loves subverting the norm. This subversion shines through by showing women adopting masculine attire, or men wearing skirts, corsets, and dresses with trains.
Born in 1952 in the Paris suburb of Arcueil, Gaultier, like many of his peers and contemporaries, was interested in fashion from a young age. Despite never been formerly trained in design, he joined the house of Pierre Cardin at aged 18 and whilst still in school. While his time at Pierre Cardin was short, he has gained a wealth of contacts and, soon after, moved on to Jacques Esterel, where he learnt much of what was to become his signature style. He then moved to the couture house Patou before returning to Cardin in 1974.
"When I started my career, I went to work with Pierre Cardin. At that time, of course, I didn't have my line or whatever, so I didn't have my style at all. I was doing Cardin. So I was sketching, imagining what he would love," Gaultier told USVogue in 2004. "And afterwards, when I was at Patou, Michel Goma was the designer so I was in the spirit of Michel Goma. I quite loved that."
While he was a recognised designer, since opening his own boutique back in 1985, it was only in the 1990s that Gaultier achieved international fame.
And it was all thanks to a pair of conical bras. Well, granted, it was worn by one of the most iconic stars of the time - Madonna. Gaultier had designed the costumes for Queen Madge's Blond Ambition tour and the conical bras and basques he created for her now rank among some of the most iconic designs in history.
In the designer's biography on British Vogue, Gaultier was quoted as saying that he had no idea that the bras and basque would become so important. "I was a fan of Madonna's so I was pleased to collaborate with her for that reason - not because it would be good for my career," he told The Telegraph in 2010. He designed stage costumes again for Madonna for her 2006 Confessions tour.
In 2003, Gaultier succeeded Martin Margiela as the head designer at Hermès, and debuted his first haute-couture collection for autumn/winter 2004-05.After a good seven-year run at Hermes, Gaultier announced in 2011 that he is leaving ready-to-wear to focus on Haute Couture.
Last year, a fashion retrospective called "The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk" made its debut in London to critical acclaimed. Showing some of his best works throughout his career, the display includes the iconic costumes he made for A-list celebrities like Madonna and Kylie Minogue. This month, the exhibition travels to Paris. So, if you're on holiday in the City of Love, be sure to catch the retrospective.