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Jean Paul Gaultier picks five highlights from five decades in fashion

 (Getty Images For Jean Paul Gault)
(Getty Images For Jean Paul Gault)

Jean Paul Gaultier was late to our interview for two, completely forgivable, reasons. Firstly, a family of tourists asked to take a photo with him, and secondly, he bumped into his dear friend, the French Oscar-winning actress, Marion Cotillard.

When we meet, in the lounge of London’s Soho Hotel, Monsieur Gaultier is wearing a short-sleeved, blue denim shirt – a fitting choice for a conversation about his career highlights, considering his long history with denim. Having recently announced Simone Rocha as the next guest designer for his brand, JPG has also returned with a new eau de parfum ‘Divine’, a sunny, floral, salt-seasoned gourmand inspired by revolutionary, strong, ambitious women, available now.

 (Jean Paul Gaultier)
(Jean Paul Gaultier)

Though now retired and passing the baton to fashion talent from around the world, we speak to Monsieur Gaultier about his hugely influential career that spanned half a century. Here, the designer lists his five highlights from five decades in fashion.

1970s

“In the seventies there are two, because this is when I started to work with Pierre Cardin. I sent my sketches to all the couturiers but he was the one who hired me. And then my second highlight would have to be in 1976, when I started my first collection under my own name.”

1980s

“In the eighties I loved putting on the fashion shows, they got bigger and bigger. Maybe the skirt for men that I did? But at the end of the eighties it would have to be Madonna. Designing the costumes for the Blond Ambition Tour. Madonna with the corset – which of course, when I first created it, was never for her, it was for my teddy bear. When Madonna wore the corset she wasn’t vulnerable, it was more like armour. It protects, it’s erotic, it’s like, yes, I am here. You touch only if I want you too.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

1990s

“Eurotrash! At first I thought, my god, I cannot do that! I’m not a comedian! But Antoine de Caunes – who asked me to do it — said ‘don’t be a comedian, just be yourself.’ There was a big changement at the beginning of the nineties for me. I decided to make a record. It wasn’t a huge success for me, I think I’ve definitely sold more clothes than records. It was a good experience but I never wanted to make a career out of it, it was just fashion, fashion, fashion for me.”

2000s

“I did a few films in the 2000s… The Fifth Element! I did Bad Education, The City of Lost Children. It was a beautiful adventure.

Oh and of course, Hermès [Gaultier became creative director of the French brand in 2004]. It was a challenge for me because I was so punky. Maybe I did Hermès because my ex-assistant Martin Margiela did Hermès also. His collection was not Hermès at all and I remember seeing it and thinking that’s great, it’s fabulous, it’s exactly what it needs to feel more modern but still respecting the code, bravo! But also, I saw what I would have done. So then I saw Monsieur Dumas and he asked me to do it, at first I said no I cannot because I already have too many collections to produce, but then I thought, oh, why not? Martin did it very well, would I do it as well as him? Or better? No. I didn’t do better, I did it my way.”

2010s

“The big exhibition at the Barbican [The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, 2014] seen by more than 2 million people. In reality, fashion is everywhere, it’s in what we eat, it’s in everything. But it got to a point where I was simply doing too many collections: men, women, couture, Hermès, pre-collections. The creation is all my part because it’s the only thing I know how to do. Now, though I’ve retired, my name will go on. Each season it will be a different designer that I will choose. At the same time it’s very good for the ego, because of my different codes, I have a style so voilà, each time it’s someone new who can make it in their own way. They have no suggestions from me at all, I want to have a surprise. So I do nothing, I just choose them.”

 (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
(Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Jean Paul Gaultier Divine eau de parfum, £125 for 100ml is available now and can be purchased here.