Byline: Christa Worthington, May 1986

In the beginning, people thought I was designing just to be funny — but I wasn’t laughing,” says Jean Paul Gaultier, and he giggles madly.
Gaultier’s earnestness may not have been apparent at first. Not when he stuck cones on women’s breasts, or dedicated a collection to James Bond, or had a man perform a striptease on the runway. Now, however, the 33-year-old court jester of Paris can have the last laugh. He is a stylemaker who has developed a new state of the art and defined an era.
“I don’t think that women today dress in [single] themes,” says Gaultier. “When I design, it has never been, ‘Here comes the white group, here comes the beige.’ It has always been, ‘My jackets, my skirts, my shirts, my pants,’ in this and that fabric, and once they are all there I mix them up.”
What comes out is a hallucinogenic, unequivocably modern, sartorial landscape that has the subversive effect of making most everything else seemed locked into an older, out-of-it generation.
“As a child, I was a perfect little adult,” Gaultier confesses. “Now I’m living my adolescence and I feel more and more a total generation gap. It’s not that I think of age when I design. I don’t make ‘junior clothes.’ It’s more a state of mind, a way of living.”
“I started watching television very early in life,” he says. “Cinema is as much part of my life as books — perhaps more. People have a reflex that relates things to films. They want to revisit films in daily life and they do it unconsciously. For example, the motorcycle jacket that I always have in my collections, that is Marlon Brando in ‘The Wild One.’ Now a whole society of youth wears it and it has become as much a classic for me as a navy blazer.”