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Jean Paul Gaultier talks Madonna and cone bras with BBC Zeinab Badawi

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My guest today is Jean Paul Gaultier the French coutourier who's known as the enfant terrible of the fashion world for his witty and daring designs. Now an exhibition of his best works is opening here at the Barbican in London but how far do his designs like the cone-shaped bra and corset dresses help contribute to the sexual objectification of women?

Zeinab Badawi - You very quickly became known for a kind of edgy, street kind of fashion, punk, that kind of thing ..... are you comfortable with being known as the person who has this kind of designs as their signatures?

Jean Paul Gaultier - Definitely I am proud of it because I must say that I have, because the truth is that I've been inspired more by the street and the streets of London than by the jet-set. At that time early to mid 70s jet-set people were wearing very boring clothes that were not inspiring at all so I preferred to look at the streets because it represented to me a more modern way of dressing. I was very influenced by punk of course which for me was something incredibly fabulous and rebellious. I was very much against French fashion at the time which was very "that is chic, that is not chic", not an ounce of sense of humour and I must say that in London it was the complete opposite, all about eccentricity and speaking through clothes ...


Zeinab Badawi - One thing that you have really become famous for is the cone-shaped bra you did for Madonna's 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. The pointed bra, the corset, the bodice, that kind of thing is you pioneering underwear as outerwear and at the time this unleashed a lot of debate about whether this was empowering or enslaving for women..... Which was it for you?

JPG - For me it was empowering of course, because I was coming after a generation of women who were burning their bras and I saw the sense of humour in that too and to me it's all about a sense of humour

ZB - But this is how you may see it, a lot of people might say it's very restrictive, very much belonging to a past era

JPG - Definitely it is

ZB - So why bring it back?

JPG - I propose a woman who can choose to wear that herself and choose it not because they are forced to, because they like to wear that

ZB - But it's uncomfortable

JPG Well there are a lot of people who wear a lot of things that are uncomfortable .....

ZB - Would you wear it yourself?

JPG - I definitey need it now!!! At the time maybe not ...... (both laugh)

(talks about having bleached his hair blond for years and now having almost no more hair)

Zeinab Badawi - Look, I appreciate that you say that you see women as the stronger sex but nevertheless you once said that you saw a woman wearing a lacy bra under a Chanel jacket, do you think all of that might not contribute to the sexual objectification of women


Jean Paul Gaultier - Yes, only in appearance, but in reality underneath the surface absolutely not. Because I am the reflection of a woman who was changing and that change was perfectly symbolised by Madonna and let me tell you that a more mature and aware woman than Madonna doesn't exist ...

ZB - But Madonna is a big superstar what if a young woman decides to wear the underwear as outerwear, it might encourage predatory sexual male attentions.

JPG - You know, when they first introduced the mini-skirt they labelled it as prostitute-attire, then when fashion introduced trousers for women they said it was scandalous because it sent a message of a woman who wanted to be like a man because supposedly women might have had some sort of inferiority complex and turn the whole thing into a Carnival type of thing. Sometimes women just love to look at pictures of women from past eras and look at the glamour aspect of it and try that on themselves, it doesn't mean it's because they are zluts or anything like that (both laugh) :fag:

ZB - Do you think that you've also contributed to making a statement on gender and sexuality because you have men dressed in feminine clothes and viceversa ... the male pin stripe suit becoming very popular with women

JPG - Yes I think I certainly did but I was not the first one to mix feminine and masculine elements in fashion, YSL comes to mind .......

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