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Revisiting Jean Paul Gaultier’s Most Iconic Designs

Fashion's 'enfant terrible' retires

Earning the title "Enfant Terrible" of fashion, Jean Paul Gaultier stirred up the glamorous world he lived in. In the past decades, the French fashion designer challenged the conventions of couture. Jean Paul Gaultier was almost like a magician, who turned cat food cans into dazzling accessories and incorporated bread into dresses. He saw beauty in everything — from mundane, everyday encounters to films — and created out-of-the-world creations inspired of it. Not only were they astonishing, but they also had great impact that seeped into pop culture, into music and screens (remember his stunning costume work on Luc Besson’s sci-fi movie, Fifth Element?).

But alas, after half a century of re-moulding the landscape of style, the 67-year-old fashion legend announced the end of his career and plans of retirement. As we await his one final show, ahead, we celebrate the brilliant creativity of Jean Paul Gaultier with this list of his most iconic designs of all time.

French Marinièr

Yes, you read that right — one of the most timeless looks of all time that’s worn everyday up till today was the brainchild of the Jean Paul Gaultier. Created for his first prêt-à-porter collection for men, the classic aesthetic of navy stripes was inspired by a piece in his childhood wardrobe and the 1982 West German-French film Querelle that centred on a sailor.

Conical corset

Made famous by Madonna during her Blond Ambition World tour in 1990, the conical corset is one of Jean Paul Gaultier's most iconic designs in the past century. But little do people know that this design has already been present in his creations since the early 80s. Amidst the view that foundation innerwear like corsets only furthers the oppression of women, the French designer instead saw the tight-fitting bustiers as a way to embrace and celebrate femininity. His trademark creation became so legendary that it has had numerous iterations throughout the decades.


We often see women wearing menswear as a form of unisex clothing, but not so much of men wearing feminine pieces. Tearing down boundaries and gender norms, Jean Paul Gaultier made man-skirts popular when he presented them as part of his Et Dieu Créa l'Homme (And God Created Man) collection in 1985. As one of Jean Paul Gaultier’s most iconic designs, the wide leg trousers with a wrap-over panel creating the illusion of the skirt challenged masculinity and questioned clothing stereotypes. 

Punk-rock Parisienne

Jean Paul Gaultier's muse is the Parisian woman. As he presents her independence and strength, he dares against the fashion rules and dons her with rebellious punk-rock vibe. With his deft hands, he married the style inspired by the English movement with couture. Through his years, we were treated to a sight of his creations that are unconventionally mixed-and-matched with one another. We see leather jackets paired will tulle skirts, edgy belts, and pants with graphic prints. With this, he has created one-of-a-kind look that transcends time.

Referencing bondage

In true enfant terrible fashion, Jean Paul Gaultier creates astonishing pieces born out of unconventional materials like latex and rubber. He daringly referenced bondage — something that was never-before-seen as fit for fashion and haute couture. His unabashed references to such elements sure was shocking, but in its boldness, there was elegance, which definitely succeeded in cementing his status as a game-changer in the industry.

Jean Paul Gaultier was a champion of uniqueness and diversity. We see it in his daring looks worn by models of different shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. He celebrated what made each of us distinct from one another, and surely, that remarkable spirit his designs embody will live on as we see more of the fashion landscape transform in time.

(Cover photo from: @jpgaultierofficial)

Next, see more fashion rule-breaking courtesy of model Irene Kim.