History of Fashion: Jean Paul Gaultier

By Jessica Barr

Jan. 2018: Jean Paul Gaultier show, Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week S/S 2018 in Paris, France.

In an industry romanticized to be comprised of individuality, deviance, creativity and every other edgy-related adjective we can come up with, justice is found in directing our attention to the designers responsible for the affinity found when we find our niche in the thousands of grooves in fashion.

In an issue themed for identity, it only seems fitting to honor french fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Born in 1952 in Arcueil, Val-de-Marne, France, Gaultier hosted his final show on Jan. 22, 2020. In light of a fifty year run creating what have been described as “unwearable, weird and androgynous” garments, the designers final show, S/S 2020, showed no repression in creative liberties. Models strut the catwalk in dresses with suit jackets sewn on the front, not actually worn. With everything from cutout denim to abstract pieces geometric in frame, there’s no one word, phrase or classification to describe the entirety of his nearly hour long final production.

Jan. 2020: Jean Paul Gaultier final show in Paris, France S/S 2020.

What we can attempt to classify though, is his avant-garde career in itself. Gaultier was said to have taken over the 80s in fashion: in 1982 he opened his own fashion house, in 1983 he fused lingerie with high fashion, and his first boutique opened in Paris in 1985. By 1990 he was creating conical bras for Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour. Gaultier is regarded as one of the most innovative designers in fashion history, being a key player for revolution in the industry. His unisex designs like the man-skirt, in reality went beyond even gender, completely fluid in nature, questioning and destroying the cliches and traditions of the industry. Some of his most unforgettable couture pieces are seemingly farcical when taken out of context, however, if viewed as a whole his work has, at its foundation, one clear message: take the norm, reinvent it and stay true to what comes together in composing you.

Gaultier’s legacy as a couture and ready-to-wear designer leaves those interested with a lesson learned in questioning the expected. To make style your own, there’s a sense of urgency in recreating the ways in which we approach even the most basic pieces. Stitching, shift, hues, length, fabric, etc., the list goes on. There is no one way, nor is there a right way to apply the Gaultier mindset to your daily choices, the freedom comes with the courage to do so.

Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

“I don’t think I was ever concerned with shocking people. Was I conscious of the fact that it could be shocking? Yes. But I just wanted to show what I found fair or normal or beautiful. If anything, I was the one who was shocked, by certain kinds of intolerance.” —Jean-Paul Gaultier

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