Jean Paul Gaultier is a French designer, best known for his eponymous design house and his seven-year tenure as head designer at Hermès.
He was born on April 24, 1952 in Arcueil, Val-de-Marne, France.
Not interested in sports or any of the usual childhood pleasures, he was a prodigy when it came to fashion design.
The only child of a bookkeeper and a cashier, Jean Paul Gaultier developed a taste for fashion at a young age. He spent much of his childhood with his maternal grandmother, and found inspiration in her closet – her corsets in particular fascinated him. He even once made a bra for a stuffed bear – a childhood artifact that was featured later in an exhibition of his work.
At only 13 years old, Gaultier came up with designs for his grandmother and his mother. He loved fashion magazines and kept up with the latest designers. And like the top designers, Gaultier began to develop his own collections.
When he reached the age of 17, he boldly sent his design sketches to Paris designer Pierre Cardin. Cardin appreciated his talents enough to hire the young man as design assistant. Gaultier worked for Cardin for two years. He then spent a year designing for Jacques Esterel before joining the House of Patou in Paris, working with designers Angelo Tarlazzi and Michael Goma for three years.
In 1976, Gaultier established his own fashion label and held his first runway show in Paris. He opened his business with the assistance of his significant other, Francis Menuge, and together they helped establish the Jean Paul Gaultier brand. Gaultier received later financial backing from Kashiyama, a Japanese clothing company.
Before long, Gaultier became known as the bad boy of the fashion world.
He challenged popular notions of gender and drew from edgy street and punk influences. One early look he created for women involved mixing a tough leather jacket with a crinoline skirt with sneakers. Gaultier put undergarments front center with his corset dresses, which debuted in 1983. Two years later unveiled his skirts for men, another effort by the designer to subvert gender stereotypes. He also defied expectations with his runway shows, developing a reputation for over-the-top spectacles. Often wearing his trademark kilt and Breton striped-sweater, Gaultier quickly became one of fashion’s most high-profile figures.
In 1990, Gaultier suffered a personal and professional loss when his partner Francis Menuge died of AIDS. Gaultier didn’t succumb to the setback, though. That same year he created one of his signature looks that the same year as the costume designer for Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour. 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. 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.
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.
‘Doing fashion drawings was the only way I had to express myself when I was a teenager.’
‘When I started in fashion, I had already adopted the sailor-striped sweater as my uniform; that way, I wouldn’t have to drive myself crazy trying to figure out what to wear.’
‘When I do my collection, it is in a way my own story.’