He is known as the enfant terrible of the fashion world and for good reason. Jean-Paul Gaultier has been pushing the boundaries of all things style for 40 years. Provocation is intrinsic to much of his work: men in skirts, Madonna’s ‘cone bra’ and non-conventional models strutting down his catwalks. Jean-Paul Gaultier’s work often requires a double-take – it provokes but also contains a strong social message that celebrates diversity.
Though he is not putting his sketch pad away for good, the designer has of late slowed down. His last prêt-à-porter collection will be shown in Paris this month. He will focus on haute couture, lamenting that the pace of prêt-à-porter means there is too little time to reflect and innovate.
His entry into the world of fashion was not a foregone conclusion. He was born to working class parents and grew up on a council estate in Paris. His first muse was his granny who he remembers as having a real sense of flair; he would listen in as she gave fashion tips to clients who came to her for a range of services, from facials to relationship advice. His first model was his teddy bear that today still sports the remnants of the first “cone bra” and the vestiges of some fading make-up. Gaultier had no formal training but sent some of his sketches to designer Pierre Cardin – he was invited for an interview and hired on the spot at the age of eighteen.
An exhibition of his work “From the sidewalk to the catwalk” is touring the world. Our journalist, Isabelle Kumar will catch up with him for the opening in Munich, Germany for an interview in The Global Conversation later this month.
Gaultier will be answering some of your questions, send yours on Twitter with #AskJPGaultier or leave it in the post below.