Galliano remains until present one of the most creative and controversial designers not only in the pieces he produces, but as a person. He has recently come back into the public watch after his four year hiatus from being sacked from Dior. Once the Creative Director of the iconic brand, now a designer for Maison Martin Margiela. Described as a ‘Master of Couture’, Galliano appeared in an exclusive interview in the Vogue Festival with Alexandra Shulman revealing how he would be approaching the fashion world differently this time round.
Galliano’s work is nothing short of incredible and inspired. His career began shortly after he finished studying at Saint Martin’s School of Art, from which he graduated in 1988. From here it was only up. His first collection was inspired by the French Revolution and entitled ‘Les Incroyables’. The collection was such a success that is was not only restocked, but he also started his own London-based brand Galliano.
However, his talent was not matched by a head for business. During the interview in the Vogue Festival, he mentioned that:
“Saint Martins was a great place to explore my creativity, but ‘the business game’ as we called it was held on the last two days of your degree so I didn’t go,” he laughed. “I learnt the hard way, it didn’t prepare me for the business world!”
His collections were both dramatic and intricate, but within just a few years his elaborate visions were ruined by a lack of business prowess. Moreover, he would take his enjoyment of London’s nightlife to extremes – often seen partying with some of the most famous celebrities, from Kate Moss to Naomi Campbell.
After going bankrupt in 1990, he moved to Paris to search for better fortune and financial backing. To his delight he quickly gained the support of American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and their creative director for the American edition, Andre Leon Talley. These icons connected him with the right people to get him back on track. Galliano designed an entire collection and was able to successfully promote it after being put in touch with Portuguese socialite Saõ Schlumberger. She leant him her house and many models walked for free for Galliano for this particular show. Thanks to this partnership, Galliano was able to gain the exposure he needed to immerse himself into high society, as well as receive the financial aid necessary to do so.
It was then that Galliano’s talents rose to an all new level, becoming the designer for Givenchy from 1995-1996, and then head designer at Dior for the following 15 years. Galliano was named British Designer of the Year in 1987, 1994 and 1997, and he was made a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honour in 2009.
In 2011, Galliano hit the headlines for more than his fashion talents. This occurred following his anti-Semitic comments to patrons of a bar in Paris. This was later confirmed by video evidence, followed by Galliano’s dismissal by Dior. He furthermore lost a lawsuit claiming that his dismissal was unfair.
From beginner, to success, to criminal and now a re-emergent, Galliano still holds a significant place in the fashion lens.
October 6, 2014 marked the designers return to the fashion world, taking up the creative role of director of Maison Martin Margiela. As another opportunity for Galliano arises to breathe his input into the fashion industry, he wants to make sure he gets it right.
“When I first went to Margiela I wanted to know what the house felt like because Martin hadn’t been there for a really long time … I love exploring the DNA that he laid out, but while one must respect the heritage of a label, you can’t be a slave to it, which happened a lot at Dior and at Galliano.”
One of the most memorable moments was when Galliano explained the process behind the famous couture wedding dress he designed for his first collection for Margiela. He revealed that this dress consisted of a thrown-back mens coat – which received gasps and applause from the entire audience. Furthermore, he revealed that the intricate pieces on the embellishment were pieces he had collected on his hiatus. In reference to this, Galliano said:
“Before I was not living in the moment and I couldn’t see their beauty. I wanted to give them new life.”
So now that he is living a new life with a fresh approach, he is able to reignite his passion and creativity. He further commented that he is very content now living in LA with his boyfriend, making life more wholesome. “I’m in the office every day, as it’s early days, but I do still get calls telling me to leave… Balance.”
Another example he expressed to reveal his new-found zen derives from his friendship with celebrity Kate Moss. Described as a magical experience, Galliano was asked to design Moss’s wedding dress.
“It was an undercover secret … I couldn’t imagine another bride that would ask someone who had just come out of rehab to make their dress!”
Galliano is known for his ‘narrative style’ – that is, giving the models a story to imagine for the catwalk. “A little bit of theatre goes a long way,” he said. “When I started I was obsessed. It worked for the girls’ I was working with to give them a narrative. It made them bring the clothes to life and gave them a command of volume and space.”
With Galliano back in action, the world awaits his next collection and appearance. He ended the interview with Shulman on a note that proved to be useful to him, and also transcends the fashion realm:
“Be passionate about your trade and surround yourself with really strong and supportive people from the beginning.”