Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier is a French designer, best known for his eponymous design house and his seven-year tenure as head designer at Hermés.

Born in 1952 in the Paris suburb of Arcueil, he was interested in fashion from a young age but was never formerly trained in design. Aged 18, whilst still at school, he joined the house of Pierre Cardin - working there after lessons, which lead him to fail his school exams. His time at Cardin was short, owing to redundancies, and he moved on to Jacques Esterel where he learnt much of what was to become his signature style, and then to the couture house Patou. Returning to Cardin in 1974, he was sent to Manila to represent the company there.

"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 US Vogue 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."

He showed his debut collection in 1976, having raised substantial finances with his partner Francis Menuge, but did not establish his own design house until 1982 with the backing of Japanese consortium Kashiyama.

Gaultier soon became known as "l'enfant terrible" of fashion because of his penchant for challenging the then-standard views of fashion; reworking them and infusing ideas of his own.

His work has been characterised by a stylistic consistency since his very first collection. Many of his collections show women adopting masculine attire, or men wearing skirts, corsets, and dresses with trains. "People reacted much better to me in the UK, which was where it was all happening," he told The Telegraph in 2010. "Jean Muir was big at the time here and she was fabulous, as was Zandra Rhodes. You could see the craziness in the British people, but I couldn't move because I'd already started in Paris."

In September 1985 he opened his first boutique on 6 Rue Vivienne, Paris.

He became internationally recognised when he designed the costumes for Madonna's Blond Ambition tour in 1990. The conical bras and basques he created for her now rank among some of the most iconic designs in history. Gaultier has since said he had no idea that they 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 the same year, Gaultier's professional success coincided with personal tragedy when his lover and business partner Francis Menuge became seriously ill and died of AIDS.

In January 1992, he published a largely pictorial biography called A nous deux la mode. In the same year he introduced Gaultier Jeans, as well as accessories and perfumes. The following year he launched his signature scent in a glass bottle shaped like a corseted figure. In 1993, Gaultier became a co-presenter on television show Eurotrash, a magazine-format show which focused on the weird and wonderful from around the world.

He showed his debut couture collection in 1997.

In July 1999, French fashion house invested $15 million in his business as part of a deal which Gaultier described as "a dream marriage". He has designed the wardrobe of a number motion pictures, including Luc Besson's The Fifth Element, Pedro Almodóvar's Kika, Peter Greenaway's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's The City of Lost Children.

In July 2001, the designer was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur. "Gaultier changed so many things: the creative process, sexuality in fashion," Balenciaga creative director Nicolas Ghesquiére, Gaultier's former-assistant, told WWD.

In 2003, Gaultier succeeded Martin Margiela as the head designer at Hermés, and debuted his first haute-couture collection for autumn/winter 2004-05.
He designed the costumes for Kylie Minogue's international KYLIEX2008 tour in 2008.

He became the latest designer to collaborate with US retail giant Target in May 2009 to produce an affordable line.

It was announced in March 2010 that he would receive an Inspiration Award for his lifetime contribution to men's fashion and the fight against AIDS. He collected the prize at the AmfAR awards in New York on June 3.

In the same year, Gaultier ended his tenure at Hermés, with the spring/summer 2011 collection being his last for the house. He launched his first-ever swimwear collection, in collaboration with La Perla, in July 2011.

Gaultier was appointed Diet Coke's new creative director in March 2012. His role involved providing creative input into company's advertising campaigns, retail events and new online projects, as well as designing limited-edition bottles. He followed in the footsteps of Karl Lagerfeld, Matthew Williamson, Gianfranco Ferre, Marni and Roberto Cavalli who had also created new bottle designs for Diet Coke.
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