The iconic cone-bra outfits Madonna wore on her 1990 Blond Ambition tour just might be top fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s best-known creations. But it was the cone-shaped “falsies” he made as a little boy for his teddy bear Nana that stole my heart last fall and spoke of the pure truths of childhood.
I was overwhelmed with emotion the first time I stood in front of Gaultier’s toy stuffed bear. Seeing her brought out my innermost mom and transported me to an afternoon two decades ago when my son Harry proudly presented the pink teddy bear he’d hand sewn in kindergarten.
I returned to the show this week for a last moment with Nana and to spend more time with the panels of notes that hung in each gallery describing the periods and influences of Gaultier’s work. I wanted to soak up this edgy designer’s world of fashion and reflect on his views about society, gender and culture.
I was familiar with his striped signature looks and knew he was the first male fashion designer to have worn a long skirt, but I hadn’t known the intent with which he pushed against the rigid conventions of dress. He envisioned a world free of discrimination, where everyone was allowed to express his or her individual identity.
I respect individualities and I like particularities. I mix and match, collect, twist, and crossbreed codes. Past present, here, elsewhere, masculine, feminine, remarkable, humdrum – it all coexists. – Jean Paul Gaultier
Like my son, who born the same year as the Blond Ambition tour, Jean Paul Gaultier grew up feeling “different” from other boys because of his gender identity. I know both men believe being different is a right. Gaultier began his design career in the 1970s to break down what he saw as an invented divide between women’s and men’s fashions. His garments blurred the lines of masculine and feminine and invited everyone to express his or her authentic self through fashion. His message was strongly stated: inclusion and diversity are to be celebrated.
I admire Jean Paul Gaultier as a role model for today’s youth, who should all be encouraged to express their unique selves and dress accordingly. I love Monsieur Gaultier for his beliefs, strength of character and his bad-boy-of-fashion reputation. And I will remember his precious teddy bear Nana my whole life.