All About Jean Paul Gaultier

A brief biography of Jean-Paul Gaultier, his life, his fashion, and his influence.

"Blonde Ambition:" the name given pop star, Madonna's world concert tour for which Jean-Paul Gaultier designed the costumes, could easily describe the designer himself.Born outside of Paris in 1952, Gaultier has come to epitomize the avant-garde fashion of the 1980s and beyond.His "underwear as outerwear" designs are legendary.He is a paradox: silly on the catwalk, an astute businessman behind the scenes.

Jean-Paul Gaultier became interested in fashion even as a youth.He skipped school repeatedly to spend time at his grandmother's house listening to the ladies' gossip and drawing imaginary fashion collections. His grandmother, a hairdresser and tarot card reader, was to be a major influence in his life and his work. He began his fashion career in 1970, working after school at the Pierre Cardin fashion house.After some brief setbacks, Gaultier worked for Jacques Esterel and at the house of Patou.He returned to Pierre Cardin in 1974 and became the company's representative in The Philippines

Returning to France in 1975, Gaultier raised the funds needed to present his first collection with the help of partner and "love of his life," Francis Menuge.His designs drew heavily on the street scenes of London and Paris.They were funky, playful, and extraordinary, and they met with much critical acclaim.

Finally, in 1997, he obtained the funding necessary to realize his life's dream of launching his own haute couture collection.It, too, was widely acclaimed.

Once called the "enfant terrible" (bad boy) of the fashion world, Jean-Paul Gaultier today is so much more.He is a businessman, the creative force behind his label, and a shameless self-promoter. He is best known for his electronic jewelry, sailor sweater, jaunty trenchcoat, and, of course, the cone-shaped corset made famous by Madonna. His provocative designs are inventive, witty, and sometimes bizarre, but always fascinating.

The theme of Jean-Paul Gaultier's Spring/Summer 2005 collection returned to one of his favorite inspirations: Africa.Bold colors, animal prints, and exaggerated details reappear throughout the show.

Today, the Gaultier label includes fragrance (one of which features a cone-bra-shaped bottle,) menswear, accessories, cosmetics, ready-to-wear, and, of course, haute couture.Among other things, he has designed bread, furniture, and wine bottles.

In 2003, Jean-Paul Gaultier became the chief designer at Hermes.The move was a joint effort, with Hermes acquiring a 35% share in Gaultier and adding funding needed to expand the Gaultier label unto the world stage.In turn, Gaultier is working to bring a new creativity to the somewhat staid, traditional French line of Hermes.

Gaultier's flamboyant style is a natural match for film costume design.His numerous film credits include "Dangerous Liaisons," "City of Lost Children," and "The Fifth Element."

In addition to Madonna, Jean-Paul Gaultier has dressed famous men and women throughout the world including Kate Hudson, Cate Blanchett, and Nicole Kidman.

He received the French Legion d'Honneur for his work in 2001, presented to him by his former employer, Pierre Cardin.His designs are featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, and The Musee du Monde (fashion museum) in Paris.

The platinum blonde Gaultier, still-youthful-looking in his mid-50s, has, no doubt, many surprises left for the fashion world.

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