Conical bras, striped sailor top and gender neutral designs… Jean Paul Gaultier has been in fashion for over 50 years. She wore Madonna, Björk and Lady Gaga, and was elevated to cult status in the 1990s as co-presenter on Channel 4’s Eurotrash, with Antoine de Caunes. The French designer has just turned 70, and her wild, event-filled life will be celebrated in a song-and-dance cabaret, Fashion Freak Showat the Roundhouse in London this summer.
Do you always have a strong connection to the UK?
Yes! The first time I went to England, to London, it was like a place very close to Paris, but completely different. The people, the architecture, the weather, the spirit. It started in the 1970s, therefore I saw Tommy the movie, the Rocky Horror Show, the punks. To me, this is an unbelievable thing; no one but English can do that. I love eccentricity and freedom. While in France we are a little bourgeois: no sense of humor, no sense of self -criticism. You have to always be kind and very elegant. Honestly, I hate that, and I love that in England there is a difference: fantasy is completely accepted.
Is there anything about the UK that you don’t like?
At first, the food was not good. Now it’s very good – it’s been for many years – but before it was only Indian and Chinese restaurants where it was OK. Some are extremely disgusting. But it’s changed, everything has changed, so you now have England’s perfect 12 points. No, that’s wrong that they didn’t give you any points for Eurovision.
A big fan of Eurovision. Why has the UK done so badly in recent years?
Sad but political. For OK, the 2021 song [James Newman’s Embers] not one of the greatest, but it’s not bad. And to be zero, I think it’s because of Brexit or something like that, which is even more disgusting.
You are so good was known as a fashion designer when you first started presenting Eurotrash in the 1990s. Was it a fun break from your day job?
My first collection than in 1976, and in 1990 my boyfriend [Francis Menuge] died. And that was a time where I felt like I had lost an arm, or two arms really. So I have a suggestion from Antoine de Caunes [to present Eurotrash in 1994] but I told him: “I am not a presenter. I don’t know how to say. ” And he said: “No problem. You just have to be yourself. ” Bon, which probably means gay! So after I found out he and I were, but very French, so: let’s do it. And I think it’s ridiculous.
You recently became a judge on the French version of Strictly You DanceThe
Oh, that was a big mistake. I have no regrets but I don’t like it. I thought I’d do it, because I’ve been a fan of the program for a long time, but you have to criticize. [the dancers] and give some advice, which is not my cup of tea. They have to do what they feel, and I can’t technically tell what they have to do.
After 50 years in business you are presenting your last haute couture show in 2020. Do you miss fashion?
Oh, not really, no! I love doing things about fashion but I don’t want to do things anymore. So if someone asks me to do an exhibit about a topic like denim or corsetry, I’d love to do that. And so I did Fashion Freak Showbecause I’m almost 50 years into fashion and I want to express myself about it.
What should the audience expect from Fashion Freak Show?
For the show, they see a little bit of my life. Actually, not a little, but this is my life in no detail, explaining how a little boy, from a very nice grandmother, wore his teddy bear with a conic bra when she was seven years old, long before Madonna!
Madonna famously wore the conical bra on her 1990 Blond Ambition tour. Is it true that you proposed to her?
Yes, two or three times. But always no, no, no.
What would you have done if he had said yea?
I would have realized, perhaps: “Oh my God, what am I asking?” She is a very strong woman. I remember the first time I saw him: on Top with Pops and he sang Holiday and I think he was English. I remember thinking: “Oh that one, he’s good, how he dresses, and the music is great, I like him.” But he is an American! I wonder if an American can dress like that.
Throughout your career you have chosen unusual models, with different ages and body types. Did that feel radical when you did it?
I want to show that there is a lot of beauty in the difference. There is not just one kind of beauty. I’ve always loved the difference – maybe because I’m different from myself, in a way. That’s why I don’t like models that are too professional. I prefer to see women I see in a club, like for example at Le Palace [the Studio 54 of Paris], which is where French punk went. I don’t like Parisian chic. I like the opposite woman: the modern woman.
Your clothes are a big part of today’s revival in 90s fashion, worn by the likes of Zendaya and Kendall Jenner. Do you feel proud that your work remains relevant?
Very proud. Meaning I wasn’t wrong! But I also don’t create fast -paced trends, trends that only last a season, things that come and go. And I’m glad to see that. Even if I don’t want to make more collections myself, my idea is to hire a different designer each time. [to reinterpret Jean Paul Gaultier designs] very good running. I could even see Willy Smith’s wife wearing one of the dresses, Gaultier’s green dress. [Y/Project’s] Glenn Martens.
The dress Jada Pinkett Smith wore to the Oscars?
Yes! Usually in the theater, the green is rather unlucky. [Laughs] But he won the award!