John Galliano

John Galliano (b. 1960) is a British fashion designer who was head designer of French haute couture houses Givenchy and Christian Dior. He led Dior from 1996 to 2011, when he was abruptly dismissed following his arrest over an alleged anti-Semitic tirade in a Paris bar.

The same day, a video surfaced of Galliano on a similar rant in the same bar the previous December. He was convicted of making ‘public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity,’ and fined €6,000.

He was born in Gibraltar to a Gibraltarian father and a Spanish mother, and has two sisters. Galliano’s father was a plumber. His family moved to England in pursuit of work when Galliano was six. He was raised in a strict Roman Catholic family. Galliano was shy and different and often spoke of his struggle to fit in. His mother, a flamenco teacher, would dress him in his ‘smartest’ outfit even for a trip to the local shops. This, combined with his creative sensibilities, saw him frequently bullied at his London boys grammar school.

He attended Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, from which he graduated in 1984 with a degree in fashion design. His first collection, inspired by the French Revolution and entitled Les Incroyables, was bought in its entirety by and sold in the London fashion boutique Browns. On the back of his overnight success, Galliano set up a studio in London, but his talent was not matched by a head for business, moreover, he would take his enjoyment of London’s nightlife to extremes.

His first show was in 1989 as part of Paris Fashion Week. By 1990, he was bankrupt and, after his own London-based label failed to re-ignite his fortunes, he moved to Paris. In 1993 Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley introduced Galliano to Portuguese socialite and fashion patron Sao Schlumberger and a venture firm. With the use of Schlumberger’s unoccupied Parisian mansion as a temporary HQ and theatrical setting for the show, Galliano produced 17 black outfits with a fifteen day deadline.

Fashion critics noted that his work moved away from traditional forms of pret-a-porter (ready to wear), becoming much more like that associated with haute couture and attracting a younger, more fashion aware customer than that of long established French fashion houses. Couture garments traditionally feature the finest quality materials, workmanship and techniques. Galliano used these techniques on a smaller scale.

In July 1995, he was appointed as the designer of Givenchy by Bernard Arnault, owner of luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, thus becoming the first British designer to head a French haute couture house. Less than two years later, LVMH moved Galliano to Christian Dior, replacing Italian designer Gianfranco Ferré. His first couture show for Dior coincided with the label’s 50th anniversary.

He has been quoted as identifying his love of theater and femininity as central to his creations: ‘my role is to seduce,’ he has said, and has gone so far as recreating some of Dior’s period clothing for Madonna in Evita. He has also credited Standard Oil heiress Millicent Rogers as an influence.

Galliano has modeled his personal appearance after that of American expatriate poet Ezra Pound. Though, similarities between Galliano and the fictional amoral fashion designer Mugatu, with his ‘Derelicte’ homeless fashion show, from the movie ‘Zoolander’ have been pointed out by some commentators. Galliano was part of the so-called Boho-chic (bohemian) movement in fashion, which was called ‘Hobo-chic,’ by some cheeky detractors.

Galliano shares his Paris home with his long-term boyfriend Alexis Roche. Galliano became a familiar figure on the streets of Le Marais, an area of Paris popular with gays and also the city’s Jewish community. Reportedly he himself has Jewish ancestry from the Sephardi Jews who came from Spain and Portugal in the 19th century.

Videos of a drunk Galliano hurling anti-semitic rants at a group of Italian women first surfaced in March of 2011. In one, he declares ‘I love Hitler… People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be fucking gassed.’ This incident happened just before Paris Fashion Week. The video was licensed to British tabloid newspaper The Sun, who published it on their website.

Natalie Portman, an American actress who is Jewish and whose great-grandparents died at Auschwitz, had an endorsement contract with Dior. In a statement, she expressed ‘disgust’ at Galliano’s anti-semitic comments. Another model for Dior, the French actress Eva Green, said of the incident in defence of Galliano: ‘Sometimes, you can make mistakes. I don’t think he’s anti-semitic. I’m Jewish. I don’t think he has anything against the Jews. I think it’s more that he was probably a bit drunk.’ Stylist Patricia Field dismissed Galliano’s anti-semitic rants as ‘theatre’ and later, in a phone interview with WWD described Galliano’s videotaped behavior as ‘farce’ and said she was bewildered that people in the fashion community have not recognized it as such.

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