We delve into the enchanted world of Galliano as he makes his return to fashion...
‘You only get a short life, so take chances,’ John Galliano once declared. The philosophy sums up the man. After years in the wilderness, the risk-taking designer was huddled back into the fashion-fold last night by high-priestess Anna Wintour at the British Fashion Awards. Even now, in the cold light of day, it seems almost an impossible task to encapsulate the former Dior and Givenchy designer in only a few paragraphs. Perhaps his above quote is as close as we’re ever likely to get to the truth.
The fact is, we can’t think of a fashion designer worthier of the ‘controversy’ label than Galliano. Flamboyant, rebellious – nay riotous – and that’s just the man himself, he’s an unpredictable force of nature whose designs are considered by many as ‘genius’ and unpredictable outbursts as ‘self-destructive’.
When these two elements collide together, as often they have throughout his career, it creates the sparks of an irreplaceable artist whose couture creations are equaled by none.
Exactly what defines the man who soared so high and plummeted so low, when Dior suspended Galliano following an anti-Semitic outburst in a Paris bar in 2011, remains an elusive question. This year marks a comeback of sorts: rebooting his career once again as creative director at Maison Martin Margiela. So what can we expect from the fashion rebel reborn? Who knows: only time will tell.
What we do know is why we’re all talking about his career-resurrection. Here are just a few reasons why John Galliano’s return is one of the most hotly anticipated events of 2015. Are you sitting comfortably? Let’s begin…
Anarchy in the UK
It’s no coincidence that Galliano’s first ever catwalk show was inspired by the French Revolution and entitled ‘Les Incroyables’. His hedonisitic spirit electrically-charged every collection he put his name to, ensuring mahem was never far from sight. According to Jeremy Healy, DJ and friend who was interviewed by The New Yorker: ‘My girlfriend was modelling, and when she walked down the runway she had a tree branch coming out of her head and she was waving a dead mackerel. An actual dead fish. The whole show was like that.’ If that isn’t punk, what is?
Through the wardrobe
Galliano’s fantastical narrative takes us through the wardrobe and into Narnia and this was especially the case in the decade that defined his unparalleled design: the 1990s. Galliano’s catwalk isn’t just a runway; it’s a stage. Enchanted forests and Gatsby-era decadence, ‘Princess Pocahontas’ on a steamtrain: Nothing is too mad, bad or flamboyant for Galliano. Take his transformation of Paris’ Opera Garnier in 1998, for instance. Frankly, who could forget it? Gate-crashing with a Venetian spectacle inspired by Marchesa Casati and the Ballets Russes, this wasn’t just a fashion show this was a ‘fashion opera’.
Galliano loves women
‘I don’t love dolls. I love women. I love their bodies,’ Galliano once enthused. His love of women’s shapes and curves is consistently brought out in his designs. As André Leon Talley of American Vogue told The New Yorker: ‘The sexy slip dress, the spaghetti straps, everything inspired by lingerie and by the curves of a woman’s body—that is all John.’
A critical success yet a financial flop, in 1993 John Galliano was at rock bottom, even resorting to kipping on friend’s floors due to lack of funds. Not one to stay beaten for long, the designer knocked on Anna Wintour’s door and Vogue picked Galliano up off the floor. The result was as fearless as his choice of benefactor: his A/W 1994 collection consisted of 18 black silk creations. He later described the show as the ‘turning point’. We’re sure even Anna had a rare smile on her face after that catwalk…
Always dress the part
Over the years Galliano has consistently upstaged his own models on the catwalk, dressing in outrageous costumes to celebrate the finale of each show. You name it, he’s tried it: A backcombed pirate fierce enough to rival Johnny Depp? Check. An American Indian chief who had most of us humming The Village People? Check. A Liberace matador in powder-blue and electric-pink? Ch-ch-check. John Galliano is whatever he wants to be.
Kiss me, Kate
It was way back in 1990 when a young, dishevelled urchin walked into John Galliano’s casting for his S/S show. In his own words:’I’d found my rough little diamond.’ Through Galliano’s unpredictable highs and lows, there has been one person who has remained his constant, refusing to part ways with the designer and that is Kate Moss. She even commissioned him to design her wedding dress in the same year he was dismissed from Dior for his baffling anti-semitic outburst in Paris. He himself said of Kate’s helping hand: ‘Creating Kate’s wedding dress saved me personally because it was my creative rehab. She dared me to be me again.’