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Jean-Paul Gaultier, the enfant terrible of high fashion

Jean Paul Gaultier

Nonconformism in fashion has a name, and it is Jean-Paul Gaultier. Here is the story of the brilliant French designer!

Among the most innovative and irreverent designers of high fashion, Jean-Paul Gaultier has made history with both his clothes and his perfumes, which have rightfully entered pop culture across the globe. Nicknamed " l'enfant terrible " of haute couture , he never attended any stylist school, yet he managed to establish himself and become one of the most famous designers in the world: here's how!

Who is Jean-Paul Gaultier? The biography

Jean-Paul Gaultier was born in Arcueil , a city in northern France, on 24 April 1952 , under the sign of Taurus . Growing up in the suburbs of the French capital, he was a shy child, but thanks to fashion he managed to find his voice.

He told Repubblica: “ I was nine years old when I saw a Folies Bergère show on TV. I was so enchanted by those wonderful costumes that the next day at school I started drawing them, including crystals and feathers. The professor noticed this, and to punish me he forced me to stand on the chair with the drawing taped to my back, while he incited my classmates to laugh at me. He did it to humiliate me, but instead they started complimenting me, asking me for more. So from being a kind of pariah I became popular, and I understood that everything can be beautiful and worthy of being told ."

The son of an accountant and a cashier , he has always had the full support of his family, even if, as we said, he never attended a school for fashion designers. In the early years he attempted to establish himself by sending his sketches to various already illustrious stylists, until he was noticed by Pierre Cardin, who hired him as an assistant in 1970. It was the beginning of a unique career.

Jean Paul Gaultier
Jean Paul Gaultier

The career of the stylist (and not only)

Eleven years after that first work, Jean-Paul Gaultier made his mark with his first collection , with which he earned the name enfant terrible . This is because his style is irreverent, unusual and unconventional : it is inspired by streetwear and shows elderly, overweight or full of piercings and tattoos models.

Gaultier designs clothing for many films , including Luc Besson's The Fifth Element .
But he established himself above all in the world of music, designing Madonna 's very famous cone bra . He also created clothes for Kylie Minogue and Marylin Manson , helping him promote the album The Golden Age of Grotesque . In the meantime, he organizes parades of men in skirts and kilts which he calls Bravehearts – Men in Skirts .

Gaultier's first perfume is called Classique and was born in 1993 as a floral fragrance for women. The first perfume for men will be Le Male . The third will be Fragile , followed by Gaultier² (unisex), Fleur du Male and Ma Dame .

His show on January 22, 2020 at the Châtelet Théâtre in Paris is one of the most important events of his career: not only does it celebrate his 50th year of activity, but it also marks his retirement from the catwalks . However, it is not a definitive farewell, but a new beginning!

The great stylist has also worked outside the world of fashion, above all as a TV presenter and commentator. Among other things, in 2021 he was in fact a member of the jury of the French version of Dancing with the Stars . In 2024, an incredible show that combines fashion, music, artists, dance and pop culture celebrates his career: it's the Fashion Freak Show .

The private life of Jean-Paul Gaultier

Regarding Jean-Paul Gaultier's private sphere, we know that there was a great love in his life: it was Francis Menuge , his romantic partner (and also in work) for about 15 years. However, their relationship was broken in 1990, when Menuge died of AIDS .

We also know that, growing up, the stylist's point of reference was his grandmother : a nurse by profession, to make ends meet she helped women become more beautiful by giving massages, reading papers and cutting their hair.

Curiosities about the designer

– Gaultier is also a musician : in 1989 he even released a single entitled How to do that .

– The 1995 MTV EMA had the designer as presenter.

– His first men's fragrance Le Male , is the best-selling men's perfume in Europe!

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