Jean Paul Gaultier hits out at 'ridiculous' fashion waste

By Rebecca Jones
Arts correspondent, BBC News

image copyrightGorka Postigo
image captionJean Paul Gaultier has been working in haute couture for more than 40 years

The French designer Jean Paul Gaultier says big fashion brands are harming the planet by producing "far too many collections with far too many clothes".

He said companies must stop engaging in a "contest" to make the most clothes.

"Big groups are doing more collections, new collections... with a big amount of clothes. It's absolutely ridiculous."

Gaultier, one of the world's most influential designers with a more than 40-year career, is speaking as someone who knows the fashion world inside out.

"It's not a question of thinking about what people need. It's thinking about being bigger," he added when speaking to BBC News. "It's only a question of power and politics."

image copyrightLuke Austin
image captionJean Paul Gaultier's now legendary conical bra features in his Fashion Freak Show

Too many companies produced clothes that were "not to be worn" but were "more like advertising," he said.

Gaultier became known as a fashion's "enfant terrible", based on audacious designs such as Madonna's infamous cone bra and the sarong worn by David Beckham.

He had no formal training but from his first show in Paris in 1976 to his later role as creative director at Hermes, he fused the traditional with the radical - embracing androgny, championing diversity and challenging gender stereotypes.

In many ways he is part of the fashion establishment. But that has not stopped him criticising the fashion industry, which produces billions of items of clothing every year.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionBurberry said it would bring in measures to recycle its unsold clothes rather than burn them

UK citizens alone discard around a million tonnes of textiles per year, according to a report from the House of Commons environmental audit committee in February. The same report said the country was estimated to send £140m worth of clothing to landfill every year.

Last year it emerged that Burberry burnt unsold clothes, accessories and perfume worth £28.6 million to protect its brand and maintain its exclusivity. It became clear that the practice was in fact commonplace.

"Some people destroy the clothes, they burn them," said Gaultier. "It's scandalous."

Gaultier is no stranger to excess. He is bringing Fashion Freak Show, a huge musical extravaganza about his life and career, to the Southbank Centre in London in July.

It features hundreds of new outfits, alongside some of his most legendary designs.

image copyrightLuke Austin
image captionJean Paul Gaultier's Fashion Freak Show features actors, dancers and circus artists

But he insists he is a convert to recycling and promises that his next haute couture show in January "will be all about recycling".

And he has a message for his fans: "Keep your clothes... and after, we can make something new. I will help you do that."

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