February 12, 2020 9:31 PM

It has become almost useless and banal to introduce Jean-Paul Gaultier.The mere mention of his name alone elicits a constellation of images that have become part of our mind and imagination since he first appeared on the fashion scene back in 1976. He is part  of those who make and break times. Fashion icon of social transgression, he used all its signs: tattoos and piercings, punks and skinheads. Subversive leader fashion rock star Jean-Paul inspiras countess young fashion students trying to find the almighty  line between making it big and not compromising oneslf. What is cernain in this counter pop-esque culture is that there will be a before Jean-Paul Gaultier, and an after Jean-Paul Gaultier.


Every child has always been faced with the famous ques-tion: “what would you Like to do when you grow up?” I experi-enced this particular moment when I was only 5 years old. I was at the dinner table and my parents asked the question for fun. I vividly remember answering: I would like to be like Jean-Paul Gaultier.” Failing to have a talent for drawing,I ended up with a good ability to write more or less good things. But Jean-Paul has always stayed in my mind. Jean-Paul Gaultier, the boy, born in 1952, in a Parisian suburb, has come a long way since his grandmother introduced him to couture many years ago. The man affectionately called the enfant terrible of fashion proved to be the exact op-posite of it in his childhood: “Enfant terrible? No, not at all.I was a very wise but lonely child. I did not like to go to school, I preferred to stay at home and watch the clouds out through my window, dreaming...” To his seven-year-old self, he would say: “You must have a passion in life, with passion anything is possible.”


 “When I was ten years old I saw, with my grandmother, “Fal- Balas” by Jacques Becker on television, the story of a fashion de-signer who falls in love with the fiancée of his best friend and he commits suicide at the end... I did not - of course - want the tragic end, but in the film there was a fashion show and when I saw it, I immediately knew that this was what I wanted to do in my life. Being a designer, presenting fashion shows.” He designed his first portfolio in a brown school notebook in 1964. He was only twelve, but his pencil stroke was al- ready like a professional one. He had already mastered the trapeze dresses, and was inspired by Dior to design coats. His grandmother, and magazines, taught him couture, before becoming the darling of editors later in his career. Like many successful entrepreneurs he fed his devouring ambition by devoting himself completely to his passion, stopping his painful high school experience and dropping out. The rest is legendary: After sending him his sketches, Pierre Cardin called him and hired the young man, from there he was hired by Jacques Esterel only to return to Cardin in 1974. 1976 saw the presentation of his real first collection. The eighties were already waiting for him with arms wide open, as he would reign as the ultimate fashion designer for the following two decades, before being crowned as a god of fashion. His unique vision put him at the top of the industry, and it has never dampened since.




He surely knows that being politically correct is boring and he is, therefore, exuberantly politically incorrect. Fashion is made for this: to change attitudes and to be ready to sometimes shock. He was one of the first to put a skirt in a collection for men.“I never wanted to provoke, I just wanted to show what I found just for the [present] time... The skirt for men came at a time when manners were changing and men could more easily show their feminine side.” To push the envelope is the goal of Gaultier’s approach, and the best partner for him was undoubtedly Madonna. Their collaboration has, and still does produce a lasting aesthetic shock. Together, they embody a unique provocative pop-rock sequence. In her last world tour, the ‘MDNA Tour’, the singer who once mistakenly called him ‘Goltière’, asked him once again to collaborate with her on the tour’s concert costumes. “Madonna is a permanent inspiration and it’s always a pleasure to meet and work with her. I think she’s great, I saw her concert, which was amazing.” While the Madonna/Gaultier duo seems to be immortal, “I DO NOT SEE MYSELF AS AN ARTIST BUT AS A CRAFTSMAN... I DO NOT THINK FASHION IS ART.” other collaborations have fallen apart. Thinking back on his time spent at Hermès, for which he presented his first womenswear collection in 2004, he says: “I have great memories; it’s a love story that lasted seven years. I wanted to see what a boy coming from the suburbs could do with the ‘Faubourg’, and I think it was a pretty good success.” Neither does he hesitate to talk openly about his respect for his colleagues: “I have an admiration for many designers such as Pierre Cardin, who gave me my chance when I was eighteen, Yves Saint Laurent who revolutionized fashion, Rei Kawakubo, John Galliano, Martin Margiela, who was my assistant...” Although he was recently honored by a major traveling retrospective exhibition, he says, “I do not see myself as an artist but as a craftsman...I do not think fashion is art.” After spending thirty years in the industry he’s seen everything, and when asked about all the transformations he has experienced, he answers: “There have been [many] throughout my career but I feel that the greatest transformation came with large groups.” His prolific creativity pushes him to work, as, “anything can inspire me - travelling, books, cinema, theater...” With a career spanning three decades, he obviously had the time to dip a foot into music (remember his “How to do that?” single back in the late eighties?), cinema, books and, most recently, a collaboration with Coca-Cola to design his own Diet Coke bottle. So what is there left for him to do? Is there something he would like to do? “Yes, but I surely do not know what else.” Is he thinking about stopping his career anytime soon? “I hope one day I’ll stop but I do not know when...” So before he stops, I had to ask him for a favor: to name one of his next men’s collection pieces after me. “Sure Eric, we’ll see”, he said. So even if I am not a fashion designer like him, maybe Jean-Paul Gaultier will give me the chance to turn myself into a fashion piece. Isn’t that the best gift my fiveyear-old self can get? ∞





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