Jean Paul Gaultier is one of the most iconic of French fashion designers. The Paris native was creative director of Hermes from 2003 to 2010, before leaving to focus on his own couture and ready-to-wear collections. In 2015 he closed his ready-to-wear labels to focus on his haute couture line. He famously designed Madonna’s conical bra for her Blonde Ambition tour.
Who has most inspired you?
My grandmother first got me interested in fashion. She read my cards when I was a child and told me that my life was going to be fabulous and that I should have more confidence in myself.
You’ve worked in costume design, couture and RTW. Where does your heart lie?
I have a love of all things fashion and design. I wouldn’t do this job if I didn’t love it, but it’s important to maintain passion and curiosity.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I have always wanted to show in my work that there is not just one kind of beauty, but many kinds and that you can find beauty where you least expect it. Erin O’Connor is one of my most fantastic muses – she has an incredibly unique silhouette, so graceful and elegant. We first met in 1988 and we’ve been friends for almost 20 years now. She has walked in so many of my shows I have lost count. She is a remarkable model and a great friend.
Is there a collection you are most proud of?
That’s a bit like asking me to choose between my children! But I am quite proud of my SS12 collection inspired by tattoos; I think it really caught the moment.
How do you begin to design a collection? Where does the creative process start?
Anything can trigger the process. Sometimes it’s a film I’ve seen, an exhibition, or just someone that I have noticed on the street. Sometimes it can even be a mistake; I imagine that I have seen something
that wasn’t actually there.
You’ve collaborated with furniture company Roche Bobois. Do you take the same approach to furniture design as you do to fashion?
Yes. It’s essentially the same art. Although as I’ve said before, you can stick a pin in a sofa and
it won’t scream nor is it going to faint on a hot July afternoon!
Why do you love a Breton stripe?
It’s a bit of everything – a childhood memory, a uniform, Querelle de Brest [a novel by French writer Jean Genet]. Now it has become one of my codes.
Should fashion be provocative?
We, the designers, have to show what is going on in society. I have never wanted to provoke, I just want to show what I see happening around me, such as the fact that men show their feminine side or
that women can be seductive on their own terms.
Is there a current fashion trend that you loathe?
The bad taste of today could be the good taste of tomorrow.
What are your thoughts on the move towards “ungendered” clothing?
To me, clothes don’t have gender. I think I showed that a long time ago.
If you could only dress one individual for the rest of your career, who
would it be?
The greatest compliment to me is when I see my clothes worn by women on the street. Dressing just one person would be too sad.
What style mistakes do women most often make?
Listening to others’ advice and not being sure of themselves.
What social media platforms do you use?
Twitter and Instagram, but I don’t live online.
What was the last book you read?
The Mistinguett Legend, by David Bret. Mistinguett was a French star of the music halls in the late 1800s.
What profession, other than fashion design, would you have liked to pursue?
When I was a child I wanted to be a pastry chef. I always loved sweets.
Are you addicted to any television shows?
I ‘zap’ too much when I watch television but I do like shows such as Dancing with the Stars or The Voice.
What do you do to de-stress?
Work? Sketch a new collection?
Where do you most like to spend time in Paris?
I love the clichés of Paris – the Eiffel Tower, Le Grand Rex, Montmartre.