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John Galliano back on top

The autobiographical documentary “High & Low: John Galliano” opens with perhaps the most devastating low point of the famed fashion designer’s career, as he drunkenly and completely dismantled at La Perle in Paris in 2010, swearing and hating himself for being put on a parking lot for years. The film, due in cinemas in March, stars fashion luminaries such as Anna Wintour, Edward Enninful, Penélope Cruz and Kate Moss. Galliano’s illustrious career has taken him to fashion houses such as Givenchy and Dior.

As you know, the most viral, original and powerful show of the recent Paris Fashion Week was delivered by the very Galliano who was described by many in the ruthless world of high fashion at the time. The designer’s Maison Margiela Artisanal show was a huge success, which the industry and the public have since spoken of in superlatives: nothing less than “history” and “genius”.

The show, held in the nightclub under the Pont Alexandre III bridge, was lavish, exuberant and full of raging emotions, a captivating show the likes of which we have not seen for many years. “The producers are stronger than the musicians”, noted Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino. “Galleries are stronger than painters. And big companies are stronger than designers”. It is feared that on the road to super-brands, billions and globalisation we have lost something essential and we don’t know how to get it back. The latest Margiela show, with its boldly distorted world and theatre, its lack of overt commercial intent, was a response to all this.


Few designers have symbolised the modern arc of fashion as much as Galliano, born in Gibraltar and raised in South London, who fell in love with fashion at Central Saint Martins, made his Paris debut in 1989, secured major financial backing for his subsequent shows with Anna Wintour and André Leon Talley, and by 1995 was appointed head designer at Givenchy. He became the first British designer to head a French haute couture house. The following year, LVMH transferred him to Christian Dior, replacing Italian designer Gianfranco Ferré. At Dior, Galliano received widespread critical acclaim for both his haute couture and ready-to-wear collections. At the beginning of the millennium, Galliano’s shows – both his own label and Dior’s – were clearly the most popular in Paris. Then, as the seasons went by, the darling of the fashion world became increasingly isolated, appearing in ridiculous costumes, sinking into drug and alcohol addiction, and finally becoming one of the early ‘victims’ of the abolitionist culture after an anti-Semitic outburst in a Paris bar.

It was also Anna Wintour who, two years later, won the fashion world’s forgiveness: in 2013, she accepted an invitation from Oscar de la Renta to temporarily stay in de la Renta’s design studio and help put together his autumn 2013 ready-to-wear collection for New York Fashion Week. “I can create. I am ready to create… [and] I hope that my penance will give me a second chance,” she said. Galliano signed on with Maison Margiela the following year to take over the creative direction of the house, successfully returning the designer to his leading role in luxury fashion design. A few weeks later, at the annual British Fashion Awards, Galliano presented the Outstanding Achievement Award to Anna Wintour, who wore the designer’s first creation for Maison Martin Margiela, signalling that the powerful editor-in-chief had once again placed John Galliano on the A-list.