John Galliano’s Fashion Show at Dior Is Still Something Incredible and Legendary
John Galliano, with his full name John Charles Galliano was born on November 28, 1960 in Gibraltar. He is a famous British fashion designer, popular worldwide for his ready-to-wear and haute-couture collections for many fashion brands such as Christian Dior, Givenchy and Maison Margiela.
He always mixed his looks in unexpected combinations, creating extravagant yet artfully constructed and carefully chosen outfits. His constant interest in the fashion catwalks earned him applause and criticism.
After appointments at Givenchy and Christian Dior, Galliano gained international celebrity status, becoming the first British designer since Charles Frederick Worth to head a French fashion house.
But what else do you know about this legendary figure and his biography? How about learning more about the history of the iconic Dior brand with the designer’s participation in it? Read about John Galliano’s life story and Dior below. And we promise, you can be surprised by many facts.
Childhood and Education
Who is John Galliano? Galliano is the son of a Spanish plumber. At the age of 6 John moved with his family from Gibraltar to south London, where he received further education. On reaching the age of 16, John left Wilson’s Grammar School for Boys, where he did not do particularly well, and began to diligently study textile design at East London College. Already in 1980 he entered the St. Martin’s School of Art in London and there he developed a fascination for historical costume and everything connected with it. Young John Galliano worked briefly for Tommy Nutter, a tailor from Savile Row, and also worked part-time as a costume designer at the National Theatre.
His 1984 graduation collection Les Incroyables, inspired by the French Revolution, was bought straight off the college catwalk by the owner of an exclusive London fashion boutique.
After a brilliant college graduation, John Galliano opened a studio in a warehouse in London’s East End and established himself as the “boy wonder” of British fashion. In 1987 and 1994 he won the British Fashion Council’s Designer of the Year award, and in 1991 he made his debut in Paris.
Although he quickly gained cult popularity and critical acclaim with John Galliano Dior collections such as Afghanistan Repudiates Western Ideals, The Ludic Game, Fallen Angels and Forgotten Innocents, the business side of John Galliano design work was most challenging.
Twice bankrupt, Galliano’s business was rescued in 1994 by John A. Bult, a Swiss-born investment banker from New York. Galliano later opened an atelier near the Place de la Bastille in Paris. In 1995 John Galliano was appointed to replace Hubert de Givenchy, the founder of the fashion house. Galliano presented his first couture collection, which featured sumptuous ball gowns with opulent structures, dresses with bows and suits with belts. In 1995, for the third time and second year in a row, he was named British Designer of the Year.
Galliano’s shows and runways from this period were occasionally improvised at the last minute to achieve a wow effect, such as at the Fallen Angels show, when he poured buckets of cold water over the models just before the finale. Galliano began working with stylist Amanda Harlech, who worked closely with him until 1997. Other colleagues and partners include DJ Jeremy Healy, fashion designer Stephen Jones and shoemaker Manolo Blahnik.
In 1990 Galliano designed costumes for Ashley Page’s ballet Currulao, choreographed by the Rambert Dance Company. In 1991 he launched two less expensive, youth-oriented diffusion lines, Galliano’s Girl and Galliano Genes. By the early 1990s, Galliano was firmly entrenched in the London club scene. This, combined with his theatrical spirit, steered his interests toward experimentation and also contributed to his personal image. Both remain Galliano’s trademark to this day.
A Fateful Move to Paris
Galliano moved to Paris in 1990, hoping for better job prospects. His acclaimed spring-summer 1994 collection proved decisive. Thanks to the support of Vogue creative director Anna Wintour and fashion editor André Leon Talley, Galliano’s breakthrough fall/winter 1994–1995 collection was presented at the eighteenth-century mansion of Portuguese socialite Saint Schlumberger. The John Galliano fashion show recreated the intimate mood of the couture salon: the models walked through the different rooms of the house, where small groups of guests were gathered. The interior of the house was turned into a movie set, creating an aura of romantic decadence, with untidy beds and scattered rose petals. Although the show consisted of only seventeen outfits, the choreography and exotic location of the show marked an important mid-1990s shift toward Galliano fashion shows as spectacles. A comparable mode of presentation was developed by Martin Margiela and Alexander McQueen around the same time.
Galliano’s History at Dior
After Galliano was appointed head designer of the Dior fashion house in 1996, Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy (LVMH) bought Galliano’s company. The head of LVMH, which owned Givenchy and Dior, hoped that the 36-year-old Galliano can attract younger clients not only to the couture lines but also to the seasonal ready-to-wear lines of his fashion brands. Indeed, Galliano’s arrival promised to give a new lease of life to the world of Dior haute couture, and as head designer of two fashion houses, Galliano held an unrivaled position among British designers. However, he later admitted that Dior’s “New Look” – with its jackets and padded shoulders, wide ankle-length skirts – was still closer to his own aesthetic than the conservative linear models from Givenchy.
So in 1996 Galliano was appointed chief designer of LVMH, Christian Dior, as the successor to Gianfranco Ferré. Four years later Galliano’s creative control of Dior clothing was extended to accessories, store design and advertising. In the meantime it continued to create Dior by Galliano under his own brand. In 2003 he opened his first flagship store on the corner of rue Dufau and rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. The interior of the building was designed by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Galliano released his first signature Fall/Winter 2004 menswear collection in 1986.
Besides, in 1996 the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen succeeded Galliano at Givenchy, and the following year they won the British Designer of the Year award together. In 2009 Galliano was awarded the French Légion d’Honneur. It was considered the country’s highest award.
Trial Time for John Galliano
In February 2011, Galliano was accused of anti-Semitism after he allegedly uttered racist slurs in a Parisian café. In March, Dior fired the anti semitic designer, and the following month Galliano had to leave his own fashion house. During this difficult time Galliano underwent rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction and later apologized for his remarks in the interview. In September 2011, John was found guilty of causing public insult because of religion, race or ethnicity. In addition, he received a suspended fine.
For the next two years, Galliano largely shied away from the fashion world, although in 2011 he designed a wedding dress for model Kate Moss. In 2013, however, John Galliano took part in creating Oscar de la Renta’s fall collection, and the following year he was appointed creative director of the Belgian fashion house Maison Martin Margielas.
Galliano’s Signature Style
Galliano has always created eclectic clothing that is based on historical data from the world of fashion, film, art and popular culture. To varying degrees, his approach modernizes his original versions. Inspired by his numerous travels as well as his meticulous research in libraries, museum exhibitions and archives, Galliano interprets not only exotic and historical images, but he also successfully combines different methods of construction. It may be a body-friendly elastic cut popularized by Madeleine Vionnet in the 1920s, or something more unconventional. His approach has been described in different ways. In Dior’s first haute couture spring-summer 1997 collection, which coincided with Dior’s fiftieth anniversary, Galliano juxtaposed beaded jewels and corsets with hourglass silhouettes reminiscent of a past Dior era.
For many years, John Galliano’s close friend and personal stylist Alexis Roche was by his side. Before him, the designer’s lover was his colleague John Flett, who died in 1991 of a heart attack.
Further fate of Dior without John Galliano
After a scandal with John Galliano in 2011 and 15 years at the head of Dior, his first successor was Raf Simons, who kept the style of the brand, but reduced Galliano’s handwriting. Next came Maria Grazia Chiuri, who breathed a new concept of femininity into the history of the fashion house as the first appointed female creative director.
After Galliano’s dismissal, the Dior empire changed dramatically. At the same time, Maria Grazia Chiuri did bring back Galliano’s style. The modern Dior women’s philosophy focuses on practicality and comfort.
Practicality and comfort seem more realistic to consumers, especially now that we are getting used to the new norm of the quarantine era. And a fashion house must combine style with practicality in order to sell as many products as possible in rather difficult times. Still, it’s fashion and the stylistic appeal of the brand is important.
Experts report that Dior brand sales and net worth could grow by more than 9 billion euros by 2025.
There may never be another Galliano at Dior. Fashion has experienced a paradigm shift in which brands are revered more than the designers responsible for them. Whoever buys Dior shoes today may not know who is in charge of the fashion brand.
In the meantime, we follow the Dior story through every possible social media platform. And time tells if the fantastic catwalk shows and collections from the unsurpassed John Galliano, created in huge artificial sets that look like elaborate plays, are so unique and unrepeatable.