A history of rebellion – For decades, France has been the fashion industry's spiritual home and creative epicenter. Exclusively for CNN Style, designer Jean Paul Gaultier reflects on the groundbreaking designers who shaped France's style.
Jean Paul Gaultier, Haute Couture Autumn-Winter 2015
Christian Dior – Couturier Christian Dior caused an international frenzy in 1947 when he introduced the "New Look," an hourglass silhouette that had all but disappeared from fashion during WWII.
Christian Dior with models at London's Savoy Hotel, 1950
Christian Dior – "His February 1947 collection's signature rebelled against wartime uniforms, austerity and fabric restrictions — the waist was cinched, calves were shown and busts were celebrated," says Gaultier.
Models wear Christian Dior designs at London's Savoy Hotel, 1950
Madame Grès – "Madame Grès had a wonderful haute couture house, Grès, and she worked in her own universe."
Madame Grès with models outside London's Dorchester Hotel, 1971
Madame Grès – "Originally a sculptor, her silk jersey pleated dresses looked as though they had been pulled out of ancient Greece."
A 1952 Madame Gres dress displayed at the Bourdelle Museum in Paris, 2011
Pierre Cardin – Gaultier cut his teeth working in the atelier of designer Pierre Cardin, known for his futuristic aesthetic.
Elizabeth Taylor (left) with designer Pierre Cardin, wearing a headress of his own design in 1967
Pierre Cardin – "I'd always admired Cardin because he seemed like such a showman. He was so free, doing these geometric, sometimes abstract designs that were like architecture, which he had studied before he went into fashion."
A model walks the runway at Pierre Cardin, 1972
André Courrèges – "From early on I was always under the impression that [André Courrèges] was starting a revolution."
André Courrèges with a model wearing one of his Haute Couture Autumn-Winter 1967 designs, 1967
André Courrèges – "He was actually dressing the real woman of the 1960's — a modern woman who drove, rather than sipping cocktails at home."
A model wears André Courrèges, 1967
Paco Rabanne – Paco Rabanne may have been born in Spain, but he made France is home. His metallic dresses -- pieced together from different metals or coated plastics -- became a fashion staple for pop and screen stars in the 1960s.
Paco Rabanne with model Isabel Feldel, wearing one of his designs, 1967
"It was everywhere, worn by all the major yé-yé singers -- the rock and roll girls of France — and Brigitte Bardot and Barbarella also wore Paco Rabanne."
Models wear Paco Rabanne evening dresses, 1967
Yves Saint Laurent – Yves Saint Laurent was at the creative helm of Christian Dior before branching out to start his own eponymous label in 1960.
Yves Saint with friends and muses Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise outside of his Paris Rive Gauche shop, 1969
Yves Saint Laurent – He's commonly credited for legitimizing ready-to-wear in the eyes of fashion's elite. But in terms of design, the creation of le smoking, a tuxedo for women, was what he was most notorious for.
"He was scandalous and really reflected change -- the sexual revolution, the rise of liberal beliefs in France -- in a glamorous way."
A model wears a pinstripe Yves Saint Laurent smoking, 1967
Jean Paul Gaultier – After stints at Pierre Cardin and Jean Patou, Gaultier founded his own label in 1976. His collections often reference androgyny, punk and French history, and balance humor with impeccable craftsmanship.
"I've always tried to be honest and push boundaries in the same way as those before," says Gaultier. "I decided that when I created my own collection, I would push the limit of what's beautiful and what's not."
Models walk Jean Paul Gaultier's Spring-Summer 1987 runway, 1986
Jean Paul Gaultier – Early on, his risqué and unconventional designs had him branded fashion's enfant terrible by the fashion press.
A model walks the catwalk at Jean-Paul Gaultier Spring-Summer 1993, 1992
Jean Paul Gaultier – Gaultier's approach to casting and production was equally progressive. He's one of few designers to consistently feature models of color on the catwalk and, in 2011, he was one of the first designers to work with trans model Andreja Pejic (who then went by Andrej).
While he was a divisive figure early in his career, Gaultier is now part of the fashion establishment.
"The French press hasn't criticized me nearly as much over the last 20 years — making me question whether I'm doing something wrong!"
Jean Paul Gaultier with model Anna Cleavland at his Haute Couture Autumn-Winter 2015 runway show
Olivier Rousteing for Balmain – Who are Gaultier's French designers to watch? "Olivier Rousteing makes beautiful clothes for beautiful people at Balmain."
Balmain Autumn-Winter 2015
Nicolas Ghesquière for Louis Vuitton – Nicolas Ghesquière was Gaultier's assistant from 1990 to 1992. He first made a name for himself as creative director of Balenciaga, and has headed Louis Vuitton since 2013.
Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer 2016
Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent Paris – "I love the attitude of Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent," says Gaultier. Like Yves Saint Laurent before him, Slimane is a polarizing designer whose designs often seem more casual and street-inspired than his contemporaries.
Saint Laurent Autumn-Winter 2015