Jean-Paul Gaultier to retire as fashion designer after 50 years

French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier shocked the fashion world Friday by saying his next Paris haute couture show will be his last.

Jean-Paul Gaultier to retire as fashion designer after 50 years
Jean-Paul Gaultier at a fashion show in 2001. Photo: Paul Verdy/AFP
The flamboyant creator said he would be bowing out Wednesday with “a big party” to mark his 50 years in the business after his latest collection hits the catwalk.
His brand told AFP that his high-end fashion and perfume business would live on, but that 67-year-old Gaultier was stepping back from designing clothes himself.
“Rest assured, haute couture will continue with a new concept,” said the designer, who made pop history by putting Madonna in a conical bra, invented the “man skirt” and brought body diversity to the runway.
American singer Beth Ditto and the bearded Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst were among the atypical models whom he charmed into his party-like shows.
The eternal enfant terrible dropped his bombshell in a typically jokey video message, shot as if he was giving an exclusive interview to a reporter over the phone.
Reclining on a chaise longue, Gaultier whispered, “Now I am going to give you a scoop. It will be my last couture show. You have to come, you can't miss that… but, but, but, I assure you, Gaultier Paris will go on, the haute couture will continue.
“I have a new concept. I will tell you about it later, all the little secrets. To be continued! Kisses!”
Farida Khelfa, the first supermodel of North African origin, whose career Gaultier launched, was among the first to react to the news.
“Thank you maestro,” she wrote on Instagram next to a picture of them arm-in-arm on the catwalk, a rose between her teeth.
 'Fiesta of fabric and flesh'
Gaultier stopped designing ready-to-wear clothes in 2015 to concentrate on haute couture — extravagant handmade clothes which only the world's richest women can afford.
But as late as last year, the maverick insisted that he had no intention of hanging up his scissors — although he despaired of animal rights activists pressuring him to stop using furs.
“I really like the feel of fur,” he told AFP, as he confessed that he was wavering about dropping furs from his shows. “I have a charming little pussy, and I love animals, though I draw the line at crocodiles.” 
While his couture business owned by the Catalan luxury group Puig was never a huge money maker, his perfumes — often featuring his impossibly handsome sailor boys — continue to be bestsellers.
A child fashion prodigy, Gaultier said he started by making showgirl outfits for his teddy bear.
He was personal assistant to French fashion magnate Pierre Cardin at 18, and rose to fame in the 1980s alongside designers like Thierry Mugler when the Paris fashion scene was at its most decadent.
From the start he challenged gender stereotypes and conventional ideas of beauty, once placing an advert for “atypical” models.
“The facially disfigured should not refrain from applying,” he added.
 Fashion's jester genius
Gaultier carved out a parallel television career with a huge cult following as the co-presenter of a cheeky series, “Eurotrash”. In the video below, he interviews the supermodel Naomi Campbell. 
He was also the industry's jester-in-chief. In a world riddled with snobbery and pretension, he had the common touch — poking fun at himself and fashion's myriad follies.
In 2018, he staged his own hit cabaret show in Paris based loosely on his life, called “Fashion Freak Show”.
The Guardian hailed it as “a fabulous fiesta of fabric and flesh” when it transferred to London last year.
It included a key moment that was to change his life — the first time he laid eyes on a corset in his grandmother's wardrobe.
He traced his fascination to corsetry and bondage to that moment — and both would be recurring motifs in a career also replete with leather togas and tutus, feathers and all sorts of outsiders and freaks.
Hugely-loved within the fashion world, Gaultier pioneered using plus-sized models and welcomed “all shapes sizes and sexualities” on his catwalk. 
A spokeswoman for his brand told AFP the designer would be back, but like the veteran Japanese creator Kenzo — who has moved into interior design — it would be in other areas.

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Paris exhibition celebrates 100 years of French Vogue

A new exhibition in Paris will tell the story of 100 years of French Vogue - from the post-war 'New Look' of Christian Dior through the sexual liberation of the 1960s to the dangling-cigarette waifs of the 2000s.

French Vogue celebrates 100 years
French Vogue celebrates 100 years. Photo: Thomas Olva/AFP

But as well as celebrating the magazine’s storied history, the exhibit comes at a time of turbulence for the publication.

Just last month, it was confirmed that its editor of 10 years, Emmanuelle Alt, was out and wouldn’t be replaced.

She was not alone.

Looking to cut costs, owner Conde Nast International has axed editors across Europe over the past year, and put international Vogue editions under the direct control of global editorial director, Anna Wintour, in New York.

New York-based Anna Wintour now has overall control of French Vogue. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Like much of the media industry, Vogue is struggling with tumbling sales and ad revenue in the digital era.

But the latest twist is also part of the endless push and pull between New York and Paris going back to its early days.

“The whole history of French Vogue is one of back-and-forth with Conde Nast in New York – growing more independent for a while, then being reined back in,” said Sylvie Lecallier, curator of the new exhibition, “Vogue Paris 1920-2020″, which opened this weekend after a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

The Paris edition was often the loftier, more bohemian sibling to its more hard-nosed New York version.

But it was also the hotbed in which much of 20th century style and womenhood came to be defined.

“Paris was the place to hunt out talent and content and bring it to New York,” said Lecallier.

The exhibition charts the evolution from art deco drawings of the 1920s through the erotic image-making of photographers like Helmut Newton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its last peak was under editor Carine Roitfeld in the 2000s, who brought back a provocative Gallic identity by ridding the newsroom of foreign staff and becoming a fashion icon in her own right.

Her successor, Alt, was a quieter presence, though she still oversaw key moments including its first transgender cover star, Brazilian Valentina Sampaio, in 2017.

But internet culture has created “a perfect storm” for Vogue, says media expert Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis.

“The first 80 years of Vogue’s life, it had the market to itself, it was the bible for fashion,” McCabe told AFP.

“But online today, there are so many other ways to get your information. Influencers, Instagram, YouTube — everyone’s a threat.”

In a world where new fashion trends can blow up around the world in seconds, it has become much harder for a monthly magazine to set the pace.

“It’s not that they can’t survive for another 100 years — but they will be differently sized,” McCabe said.

Vogue has tried to branch out into different areas, including events.

“I used to work for a magazine, and today I work for a brand,” Alt said on the eve of French Vogue’s 1,000th issue in 2019.

But the big money was always in print, and Vogue Paris sales are dropping steadily from 98,345 in 2017 to 81,962 to 2020, according to data site ACPM.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the new top job in Paris, redefined as “head of editorial content”, went to Eugenie Trochu, who was key to building the magazine’s online presence.

She declared herself “thrilled to be part of Vogue’s international transformation”.

For the curator of the exhibition, it is ironic timing.

“We had no idea it would end like this when we started work on the exhibition,” said Lecallier.

“Who knows where it will go from here.”

The exhibition Vogue Paris 1920-2020 is at the Palais Galliera in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. The gallery is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays. Tickets for the exhibition are €14 (€12 for concessions and under 18s go free) and must be reserved online in advance.