Did Jean Paul Gaultier Really Retire Or Just Instagram Play?


French designer Jean Paul Gaultier did not beat around the bush or approach a media outlet about his latest news. He simply posted about it. “Now I’m going to share something with you,” he said in a video, while speaking on his smartphone. “This will be my last haute couture show. My last Gaultier Paris show. Be there! You can’t miss this.”

The runway show at the Théâtre du Châtelet marks the designer’s 50th year in the industry, a fitting end to his run on the catwalks, or so we think. He quickly added: “However, Gaultier Paris will go on, the Haute Couture continues. I have a new concept.”

For those following his work, this comes as no great shock after he decided to stop producing ready-to-wear and menswear apparel in 2014 to focus on couture.

As we await all the little secrets Gaultier has yet to divulge about his next project, we can’t help but look back at his lucrative career.

Gaultier embarked on his fashion career already a teenage prodigy. On his 18th birthday, he was employed by Pierre Cardin, after the teen sent him drawing samples. Five years before that, he had created a line of clothing for his mother and grandmother. He trained as Cardin’s assistant for one fruitful year before working with Jacques Esterel and Jean Patou, reports Business of Fashion. His early influences include Yves Saint Laurent.

French fashion’s ‘enfant terrible’

In 1976, French designer Jean Paul Gaultier held his first Paris runway show. Here he presents at Paris Fashion Week in January 2020. Photo: Yoan Valat/EPA-EFE

Before long, Gaultier headed his own prêt-à-porter fashion line in 1976. That same year, he held his very first Paris runway show. He had little funding to work with but the result was an unforgettable collection that was enough to earn him the attention he needed to boost his label. He later received the financial aid that he needed from Japanese retailer Kashiyama, writes

Gaultier wasn’t afraid to take risks and challenge the conventional. He used simple materials and created edgy silhouettes. His later designs featured undergarments, corset dresses and men in skirts.

Creating an icon

In 1982, he opened his first shop, then two years later, he launched his menswear collection. That same year, he created one of the world’s most iconic dresses – a strapless orange velvet minidress topped with a conical bra. This would later be the same style Madonna popularised in 1990, on her first concert during the “Blonde Ambition” world tour in Chiba, Japan, W Magazine reports.

In 1987, the French Federation of Couture presented him with an award for best spring collection.

An international sensation

The ’90s were a productive era in Gaultier’s career. At the start of the decade he released his autobiography A Nous Deux La Mode, and then in 1993, he launched his perfume line housed in a flacon shaped like a corset. His star was rising, but he cemented his place in fashion in 1997, after he held his first couture show.

His 1999 partnership with the fashion house Hermés expanded his reach, and he was soon able to open up shops in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Pretty soon, everyone knew who Jean Paul Gaultier was.

Helming Hermés

From 2003 to 2011, Gaultier served as creative director at Hermés. He took over Martin Margiela’s post and for almost a decade, Gaultier designed collection after collection for Hermés. His tenure at the fashion label introduced avant-garde designs that were undoubtedly Gaultier signatures.

When Gaultier left Hermés, a Spanish and perfume retailer called Puig bought 60 per cent of the stake in his company, and he severed ties with Hermés completely. He said in an interview: “They are buying Gaultier for Gaultier, not to turn it into something else.”

After he stepped down as creative director, Gaultier chose to focus on his eponymous label once more. In 2014, he dropped his ready-to-wear and menswear lines to concentrate on couture.

Apart from being a seasoned fashion designer, Gaultier wears many other hats. “The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk” was his first international exhibit in Montreal. He has worked on the set as costume designer to several films. He also played the part of host in the television show, Eurotrash. And at one point in the 80s, he released a dance single called How to Do That.

Even if he retires from the catwalk, fashion lovers around the world are hoping to see more of the designer in the future.


Hannah Lazatin
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