The Life of Jean-Paul Gaultier

He helped popularize kilts for men and designed clothes for Madonna’s famous Blond Ambition tour — all without going to fashion school. This is the life of design icon Jean-Paul Gaultier.

A fashion icon never formerly trained in design

He's dressed men in kilts, he has sponsored Sidaction, he's dressed Madonna, he's French fashion icon Jean-Paul Gaultier. He designed the costumes for Kylie Minogue's international KylieX2008 tour, as well as Hong Kong singer Leslie Cheung, who hired Gaultier to design eight costumes for his last concert tour in 2000. Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Fergie, Sonam Kapoor, Coco Rocha, Dita von Teese and Camilla Belle have also worn his designs throughout the years.

He was born in 1952 in the suburbs of Paris. His mother was a cashier and his father an accountant. It was alongside his grandmother that he developed a real passion for sewing. His first model was Nana, his teddy bear. At 9, he discovered the Folies Bergères’ cabaret dancers on TV. As a teenager, he was inspired by the work of Yves Saint Laurent. On his 18th birthday, without a high school diploma, and with no experience, he was hired as an assistant by Pierre Cardin. In 1977, he organized his fashion house’s first fashion show which he considered to be a “total failure.” At 31, he launched his first menswear collection. In 1990, Francis Menuge, his partner of 15 years, died of AIDS.

That same year, Madonna called upon him to design the costumes for her famous Blond Ambition Tour. At 45, he created the costumes for Luc Besson’s movie The Fifth Element. At 55, he designed the dress worn by Marion Cottillard when she accepted her Oscar. At 60, he was the first fashion designer to be a member of the Cannes Festival jury. In the 2010s, Beth Ditto, Conchita Wurst, Nabilla modeled his collections. At 66, he created a musical review at the Folies Bergères inspired by his life, the Jean-Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show.