(Adds details of show, background)
By Sarah White
PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Jean Paul Gaultier bid farewell to the catwalk on Wednesday with a joyful fashion extravaganza featuring burlesque stars such as Dita Von Teese on the runway and performances by singer Boy George.
Known for his outlandish creations, and an irreverent sense of humour that set him apart in the often snooty fashion world, the French designer celebrated 50 years in the business as well as his swan song.
And Gaultier did not disappoint, with an hour-long show that was part musical and part drag act, while models showcased spectacular costumes that included towering headdresses, feathers and bustiers galore.
The designer, 67, announced last week that the fashion show would be his last. He has yet to detail his plans or whether a successor would be named to carry the brand forward.
He only said the label, owned by family-owned Spanish fashion and fragrance group Puig, would carry on.
"There's only one Jean Paul Gaultier," said model Laetitia Casta ahead of the show.
Casta, clad in a vintage Gaultier blue jean and mesh outfit, was discovered at 15 by the French designer at an eclectic casting where she said she mingled with punks and felt lost at first.
"He was one of the first to go out into the street to find people."
Gaultier's one-time design mentor Pierre Cardin, 97, was among the guests at the Châtelet theater in Paris, where the stage was transformed into a runway.
Models such as Karlie Kloss and Irina Shayk took to the catwalk along with Gaultier muses such as Spanish actress Rossy de Palma, who wore poppies as earrings and a bouffant black dress.
The designer showcased some of his most famous looks, from conical bras like the one he dressed Madonna in on her tour in 1990, to trompe l'oeil shirt dresses and Breton striped sailor patterns.
The show kicked off with a funereal scene and Boy George singing "Back to Black," the song made famous by late singer Amy Winehouse.
Gaultier has long revelled in his image as fashion's "enfant terrible" or bad boy.
He emerged as one of the brightest young talents in French fashion during the early 1980s, shaking up the establishment with wild designs drawn from street culture, punk and the gay club scene, as well as religious iconography.
After starting out in the 1970s as an apprentice of Cardin, Gaultier later worked as a designer for Hermes. He presented his first individual collection in 1976.
In recent years he dropped ready-to-wear clothing, focusing on twice-yearly haute couture collections - one-of-a-kind, handmade outfits usually sold to one client.
Puig has yet to report earnings for 2019 and does not break down its brands' performance. In 2018, its revenues rose 5% at constant exchange rates to 1.9 billion euros.
It has doubled down on Gaultier fragrances since buying a majority stake in the brand from Hermes in 2011. (Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Cynthia Osterman)
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