Fashion

Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier, born 24 April 1952 in Arcueil, Val-de-Marne, France, a French haute couture fashion designer, was the creative director of Hermès from 2003 to 2010. | Jean Paul Gaultier, Designer, Fashion, Hermès,

His unique contribution to the world of fashion

Known as fashion's enfant terrible and the savior of haute couture, Jean Paul Gaultier is being paid tribute at his exhibition "The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk", which opened in June of 2011 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and has since been showcased at the Dallas Museum of Art. And it is no surprise, as Gaultier's cone bra design for Madonna's Blonde Ambition tour, his contribution to Lady Gaga's every day wear, and his gender-bending catwalks with tattoos, piercings, the old, the androgynous, and the fuller figured have earned him the household name that he is today.

I was first exposed to Gaultier when I was studying fashion in Paris, being led by my professor into a museum that was exhibiting his work. I remember thinking that it was hard to believe what I was looking at was fashion, having not developed the maturity to accept the unconventional as beautiful, though-provoking, and the sign of a different perspective. But what I understand now is that I was looking at creations that resulted from the lover of the body, of what was in nature, of what may be lurking inside us; and it was all right there in front of me to look at the way I wanted. It did not seem like you had to be a certain type of person, of a certain age or of a certain outlook in order to wear the clothes. In fact, you could be whoever you wanted.

Perhaps that is how Gaultier wanted to be in his own life, believing that he could be whoever he wanted. Though we now know that he achieved what he had envisioned for himself, it is always of interest to know how the seed was planted, and how it flourished. As a child, Gaultier was enamored with fashion, and sent off sketches of models to couture stylists, notably the avant-garde Pierre Cardin, who was impressed with Gaultier's work and eventually hired him as his assistant. He also worked under Jacques Esterel and Jean Patou; opportunities that must have encouraged his desire to create ensembles that that were more than just the trends of the times, but art; as it is a rare quality for clothing to speak to a mass that consists of all walks of life, not only suited to those privy to high-fashion or who are attracted to how the sequins shimmer when camera flashes are imposed upon it. And by 1976, Gaultier had released his first individual collection, and has subsequently developed his ready-to-wear, Haute Couture, and menswear lines, as well as being named the creative director of Hermes from 2003 to 2010.

Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier

As part of Autumn/Winter 2011 Haute Couture Fashion Week, Jean Paul Gaultier unveiled his second collection with the luxurious French lingerie label, La Perla, for Spring/Summer 2012, and this time, the range also includes swimwear as well as lingerie. | Jean Paul Gaultier, La Perla, Lingerie, Swimwear, Swimsuit, Sexy,

But perhaps the question is, why Gaultier? What has he done that other designers haven't? The answer starts with how he approaches designing: looking at the conventional with an unconventional eye, like a child who sees the world for the first time. And after thirty-five years of developing his designs and maintaining his brands, still being able to see what could be considered mundane or repetitive in a new light is would fuels his creativity and imagination. Look at his costumes and gowns that are of cages and corsets, of grass woven together, of a pattern that represents human muscles. Look at how well the clothes are tailored, look at how they fit, or don't fit on the body. Each creation says something; it is not just fabric that has been sewn together and placed upon a mannequin for the benefit of our wandering and curious eyes.

True to form, and an example of how Gaultier's inspiration fuels the designs for his collections, he recently paid tribute to singer Amy Winehouse by showcasing models on the runway that exhibited her signature look: bee-hive hair, cat-like eyes, some even with a cigarette dangling from their mouth. And of course, the runway show raised some eyebrows; but it wouldn't be much of a Gaultier show without the stirring of the stew, the one that holds all of our rules and limitations. Though if you want to really be able to see the full range of his capabilities and pieces, the exhibition "From Sidewalk to Catwalk" will be showing at the de Young museum in San Francisco in late March, and is divided into themes that represent Gaultier's journey as an artist and his maturation as a designer. The themes include The Odyssey of Jean Paul Gaultier, The Boudoir, Skin Deep, Punk Cancan, Urban Jungle, and Metropolis, where the ensembles reflect Gaultier's take on street style, pop culture, gender roles, what attracts and what repels, the boundaries that contain us and the choices that liberate us.

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 1:49 PM EDT | More details

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