Few designers are quite as theatrical as Jean Paul Gaultier, who takes his final runway bow today at his spring 2020 couture show. The announcement is sad, but Gaultier promised that he’s working on a “new concept” and that the Gaultier couture brand will live on. It also gives us the opportunity to look back at his 50 years of fashion showmanship.
Gaultier’s proclivities are clear: He is fascinated by lingerie (or the lack thereof), he loves a theme, and, in general, he thinks more is more. He wasn’t afraid of an exposed nipple on the runway — whether it was Madonna’s or the faux nipples etched into a catsuit. A 1997 show ended with the bride turning around to expose a flower-adorned G-string, as though she had misplaced her bouquet after the ceremony. When it came to nudity, Gaultier was endlessly inventive.
He was inventive about theme, too. One of his most memorable shows was couture for fall 2007. The models (mostly female) were dressed as princes, with the costumes getting increasingly opulent — and, in some cases, appropriative. But even his comparatively simple dresses became iconic. His love for Breton-striped tees is well documented, but one dress from a 2000 couture show melted from a long-sleeved striped tee into a Breton-striped feathered skirt. Gaultier later featured the dress in his spring 2007 ready-to-wear show along with some of his favorite looks from years past. See some of our own favorites below.