Gaultier is gone: A Tribute to Jean Paul bowing out of the fashion world

Catherine Entwistle considers the contribution made by fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier to the clothing industry as he retires

Catherine Entwistle
17th January 2020
BY @Editurna on flickr

The fashion prodigy that is Jean Paul Gaultier has hung up his measuring tape and said goodbye to fashion. After a highly successful half-century of designing, creating and showing, the man who gave Madonna her conical breasts has bowed out of the fashion world.

He always said that the conical bra would end up on his tombstone, so fittingly, his final show started with a procession of models dressed in black, carrying a black coffin with two conical breasts sticking out of it.

JPG has revealed that the cone-shaped bra wasn’t originally designed for Madonna, but for his teddy bear Nana. Defying gender stereotypes long before it became fashionable, he asked for a doll so that he could dress it up. When his disapproving parents bought him a teddy instead, he declared it as female and dressed it up anyway. That must have been the world’s chicest teddy bear.

"Jean Paul Gaultier is a household name"

With a fashion career that has spanned the last half-century, Jean Paul Gaultier is a household name. The legendary French provocateur was renowned for his often outrageous and daring looks, through which he pioneered body positive thinking and opened up the stage to the freaks and the outsiders.

Nana the teddy goes to show that he was challenging gender stereotypes and conventional ideas of beauty from the get-go. He once advertised for “atypical” models, adding, “The facially disfigured should not refrain from applying,” which set him a cut above the rest when it came to inclusivity and recognition of the outcasts. 

He has always taken a keen interest in sustainability when it comes to his work and has always been big on recycling materials saying “There are too many clothes and too many that are never worn. Don’t throw them away, recycle them”. His message could not be clearer in 2020, a time when we all need to revaluate our fashion habits and shop smarter.

Image Source: @jpgaultierofficial on Instagram

Since 1982, Gaultier has paid homage to the daring Parisian woman in his designs. He defines every aspect of her identity by acknowledging the independent, the punk-rock, the rebellious and the couture all at once. However, his work was not limited to female designs, as he often blurred the lines between the feminine and masculine.

La Marinière, which was inspired by his childhood wardrobe, embodies Parisian chic with the iconic Breton stripe. The simplicity of the design makes it a timeless classic for both men and women. He pushed boundaries much further with La Jupe Pour Homme (The Man Skirt).  Since 1985 he made skirts cool for men, by styling wide-leg trousers with a wrap-over panel at the front, which gave the illusion of a skirt. And of course, his most iconic, the Corset Conique (The Conical Bustier). The infamous conical bra was designed as a concept of woman as an ‘object of power’ as it reasserts the hyper-femininity derided by the first wave of feminism in the 70s.

" Many will wonder what he will do next."

Many will wonder what he will do next. Aged 67, his undying impish spirit will prevent him from sitting around twiddling his thumbs. He made clear that the Gaultier perfume range and high-end couture business will live on, and stated that he has a “new concept,” which he will tell us about later.

Perhaps he’ll turn his creativity back towards his “Eurotrash” days, where he was a presenter on the late-night 90s show. Or maybe he has no intention of putting down his scissors after all. I suppose we’ll have to watch this space and await his next creative venture.

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