The former 'enfant terrible' of French fashion is one of the most significant designers working today, his appeal bridging the elite and mass markets. On one hand, Jean Paul Gaultier is hailed as the saviour of haute couture (Gaultier Paris was launched 1997) and since 2004 has designed refined womenswear for Hermes, alongside his own well-established ready-to-wear label. On the other, he is one of the world's most famous living Frenchmen, partly due to a presenting job on the TV show Eurotrash in the early '90s (not to mention his personal fondness for striped Breton shirts and other Gallic cliches).
Born in 1952, he was beguiled by fashion from a young age and would sketch showgirls from the Folies Bergere to impress his classmates. In the early '70s he trained under Pierre Cardin and Jean Patou, eventually launching his own ready-to-wear collection in 1976. He soon became known for iconoclastic designs such as the male skirt, corsetry worn as outerwear, and tattoo-printed body stockings. The classics of Parisian fashion are also central to his repertoire, particularly the trench coat and le smoking.
In 1998 he launched a diffusion line, Junior Gaultier (since replaced by JPG), followed by excursions into perfumes (1993), and film costume (notably for Luc Besson's 'The Fifth Element' and Peter Greenaway's 'The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover'). But it was his wardrobe for Madonna's Blonde Ambition tour of 1990 that made him world-famous, in particular for a certain salmon-pink corset with conical bra cups. A celebrity and a genius possessed of both a piquant sense of humour and a deadly serious talent, in 2004 Gaultier staged an unique exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in Paris, entitled 'Pain Couture', that showcased clothing constructed entirely from bread.