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  • Writer's pictureVariant Magazine

Looking Back on Gaultier’s Legacy

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

By Ellie Roberto, Entertainment Editor

French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier ended his 50-year career in Paris, France, on January 22 with a runway show that channeled a half-century of his haute couture history. “I have not to complain. It’s a long time. But maybe it’s time to rest,” Gaultier said, according to a CNN interview.

Gaultier was born in a suburb of Paris in 1952. He was never formally trained as a designer, yet at 18, he was already working at the house of the renowned Pierre Cardin. Shortly after establishing his own design house in 1982, Gaultier became known as “l’enfant terrible” (a french expression that means “terrible child”) for challenging and reworking people’s view on fashion at the time.

One of his most recognizable pieces is the cone bra, which he redesigned for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour in the 1990s. He put lingerie on full display and redefined the corset that spotlighted female empowerment.

He drew attention to how fashion contributes to our social views. Sending men in skirts and women in tailored suits down the runway, he used fashion as a medium to also to poke at defined gender barriers.

In addition, Gaultier has also worked with body art; his tattoo skin designs illustrate how human bodies can coalesce with art by implementing his expertise in design.

The marinière (blue and white striped shirts) is undeniably linked to Gaultier. He incorporated it into many of his collections over the past 50 years. These stripes serve as the unofficial French uniform.

The fashion world can rely on Gaultier for his over-the-top fashion shows. His final showdown was no exception, with the biggest names in fashion in attendance. Combining performance, dance, fashion and live music to construct the last show, he brought his provocative and spectacular legacy to life—a milestone in fashion that will be celebrated forever.

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