Jean Paul Gaultier on 50 Years

Famous for his fashion spectaculars and his unbridled creativity, Jean Paul Gaultier is gearing up to celebrate his 50th anniversary in January with a retrospective show featuring over 200 looks celebrating his life and career. Representatives of the Paris-based maison said the event will be staged on January 22nd and will be one of the only times the brand’s Haute Couture show will not be held at its headquarters in Paris.

A rebel and an innovator, Gaultier is known around the world for his iconic, disruptive fashions like the “Blonde Ambition” cone bra and his groundbreaking skirts for men. Exhibits like “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” and his autobiographical “Fashion Freak Show” cabaret have already crystallised his name in the history of fashion. And this next show will be no exception.

As the house prepares for its upcoming celebration, NOWFASHION’S Sofia Celeste chatted with the designer about his life and his advice for novice designers.

SC: You will go down in history as the designer who transcended the catwalk, designing for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition concert, Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element,” and several Pedro Almodóvar films. What were your most risqué moments on the runway?

JPG: My most risky moment on the catwalk was definitely my first runway show! It was the seventies. It was rock n’ roll and I had never done one before, and it was just like jumping into the water and learning how to swim after. Of course, I have learned since, but it was quite a show to remember and not repeat.

SC:How do irony and humour have a place on the catwalk?

JPG: The world is already so serious, and the fashion industry is such a big business – we need a bit of lightness of being and humour! That is why I also embarked on new adventures with my show, the Fashion Freak Show. Fashion has to be a celebration and fun.

SC: Speaking of your Fashion Freak Show… it was really a collection of memories in the form of song and dance. It started with a scene from your youth: as a little boy sewing a cone bra made out of newspaper on your teddy bear Nana. The transsexual teddy bear named Nana was the protagonist of the stage production that starred Anna Cleveland. It was certainly the artistic high point of Paris Fashion week.  When is it okay to choose art over revenues?

JPG: I believe in the liberty of creation. I actually learned what “liberté” meant with Pierre Cardin when I worked for him as a young man. Monsieur always pushed me to express my creativity freely. Fashion should not be commercial or surreal, but express freedom.

SC:  How have your creative choices paid off in the end?

JPG: I guess it paid off for me as I will be celebrating my 50th year in the industry next year with my January Haute-Couture show.

SC: What sort of aesthetic mementos from your past will you carry with you – which pieces are at the soul of your collections?

JPG: My aesthetic mementos would be the corset and the conical bustier, of course; but also the ‘marinière,’ the man-skirt I did for the first time in 1984 and the Parisian androgynous look. I like to take classic elements and timeless codes and rework them, give them some edge and a touch of punk!

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