He was born in Gibraltar to a Gibraltarian father, Juan Galliano, and a Spanish mother, Anita, and has two sisters. Galliano's father was a plumber. His family moved to England in pursuit of work when Galliano was six, and settled in Streatham, South London, before moving to Dulwich and later to Brockley. He was raised in a strict Roman Catholic family. Galliano, who was shy and diffident, often spoke of his struggle to fit in. Recalling his early days, he once admitted: "I don’t think people here understood where I was coming from." 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 the London boys' grammar school he attended.
After attending St. Anthony's RC School and Wilson's Grammar School in London, Galliano went on to study at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, from which he graduated in 1988 with a first class honours degree in Fashion Design. His first collection was inspired by the French Revolution and entitled Les Incroyables, with a music soundtrack mixed by DJ Jeremy Healy. The collection received positive reviews and was bought in its entirety for resale in the London fashion boutique Browns. Galliano then started his own fashion label alongside long-term collaborators Amanda Harlech, at that time stylist with Harpers and Queen, and Stephen Jones, a milliner.
On the back of this success, Galliano rented studio space 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. Initially, financial backing came from Johan Brun, and when this agreement came to an end, Danish entrepreneur Peder Bertelsen, owner of firm Aguecheek, who were also backing Katherine Hamnett at the time, took over. This agreement ended in 1988 and Galliano sought the backing of German agent Faycal Amor (owner and designer of fashion label Plein Sud) who directed him to set up his base in Paris. Galliano relocated to Paris in search of financial backing and a strong client base. 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.
John Charles Galliano CBE, RDI, is a Gibraltar-born British fashion designer who was head designer of the French fashion companies John Galliano S.A. (1993 to April 2011), Givenchy (January 1996 to October 1996), and Christian Dior (October 1996 to March 2011). Galliano shared his Paris home with his boyfriend since 2005 Alexis Roche, a style consultant. 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.
Maria Luisa, 1998
Media fashion celebrity Susannah Constantine has worked for Galliano, and he has also aided the future success of other designers including shoe designer Patrick Cox. In 1991, he collaborated with Kylie Minogue, designing the costumes for her Let's Get to It Tour.
In 1993, Galliano's financial agreement with Amor ended and he did not have a showing in October, missing the season. With the help of American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Talley, then European Correspondent at Vanity Fair, Galliano was introduced to Portuguese socialite and fashion patron Sao Schlumberger and financial backers of venture firm Arbela Inc, John Bult and Mark Rice. It was through this partnership that Galliano received the financial backing and high society stamp needed to give him credibility in Paris. This collection was important in the development of Galliano as a fashion house, and is regarded as a 'fashion moment' in high fashion circles.
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. On 21 January 1996, Galliano presented his first couture show at the helm of Givenchy at the Stade de France. The collection received high praise within the fashion media. Some of Galliano's designs for Givenchy were licensed to Vogue Patterns. Less than two years later, on 14 October 1996, LVMH moved Galliano to Christian Dior, replacing Italian designer Gianfranco Ferré.
He has been quoted as identifying his love of theatre 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.
On 25 February 2011, Dior announced that it had suspended Galliano following his arrest over an alleged anti-Semitic tirade in a Paris bar. The same day, Paris-based citizen journalism site Citizenside received video of Galliano on a similar rant in the same bar the previous December. In the video a drunk Galliano hurls anti-semitic rants at a group of Italian women and 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 for Autumn/Winter 2011-12.
The video was licensed to British tabloid newspaper The Sun, which published the video on its website. After his comments he was impersonated on Saturday Night Live by Taran Killam.
Natalie Portman, a Jerusalem-born American actress who is Jewish and whose great-grandparents died at Auschwitz, had an endorsement contract with Dior for its Miss Dior Cherie fragrance. In a statement, she expressed "disgust" at Galliano's anti-semitic comments. Portman said: “I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today...I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.” Not everyone in the fashion industry shared Portman's disgust. Stylist and costume designer Patricia Field defended Galliano by sending an email to 500 friends, blogs and media. She dismissed Galliano's rants as "theatre." Later, in a phone interview with Women's Wear Daily, she described Galliano’s videotaped behaviour as “farce” and said she was bewildered that people in the fashion community have not recognised it as such. "It's theatre ... It's farce. But people in fashion don’t recognise the farce in it. All of a sudden they don't know him. But it's OK when it's Mel Brooks's The Producers singing 'Springtime for Hitler'”, Field added. Another model for Dior, French actress Eva Green, said of the incident: "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."
On 1 March 2011, Dior announced that it had begun procedures of dismissal for Galliano, with Dior's chief executive Sidney Toledano stating, "I very firmly condemn what was said by John Galliano". After the incident Galliano's popular personal website was jammed and made unavailable for visitors. Galliano denied the allegations through his attorney, and has launched a defamation lawsuit against the couple accusing him of antisemitism. Various rumours have also surfaced stating that he was set up. "From the very first day of Fashion Week, many editors have been saying that Dior wanted to get rid of him and that a plot like this would save it from having to pay him a reported £17 million", said Marcellous L. Jones, editor-in-chief of fashion web magazine TheFashionInsider.com. Dior announced it will continue to support the Galliano brand financially due to license despite his previous scandal involving alleged anti-semitic remarks.
It was reported on 2 March 2011 that Galliano was to face trial in Paris for allegedly "making racist comments to customers in a café". He had reportedly apologised "unreservedly" for his behavior, while Dior described the comments in the video as "odious". According to the Financial Times, "if found guilty, Galliano could face up to six months in prison and a fine of €22,500." (around US$31,000). The Daily Telegraph reported that it is believed Galliano has now left France and he was reported to be attending a rehabilitation facility, most likely The Meadows in Arizona." A Paris court ordered that he stand trial on charges of "public insults based on the origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity" against three people. The trial commenced on 22 June 2011.
On 8 September 2011, he was found guilty of making anti-Semitic remarks. John Galliano has been sentenced to pay a total of €6,000 (US$8,400) in suspended fines after a French court found him guilty of giving public insults on account of race.
Galliano was awarded British Designer of the Year in 1987, 1994 and 1995. In 1997, he shared the award with Alexander McQueen, his successor at Givenchy.
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2001 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to the Fashion Industry as a Fashion Designer. He received his CBE on 27 November 2001 at Buckingham Palace in London, England.
He was awarded the RDI in 2002 for his contribution to the fashion industry.
He has appeared on The Independent on Sunday's 2007 "pink list" for being one of "the most influential gay people in Britain."
In 2009, Galliano received the French Legion of Honour, previously awarded to fashion luminaries such as Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Azzedine Alaïa and Suzy Menkes. Under a decree signed by President Francois Hollande, the honor was revoked, due to the Paris Courts' decision that Galliano was guilty of making anti-Semitic remarks, which was published in France's official journal on Thursday 23 August 2012. Galliano no longer has the right to wear the French Legion of Honour medal.
Galliano shared his Paris home with his long-term boyfriend Alexis Roche, a style consultant. 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.
Galliano by Colin McDowell
Hardcover: 200 pages
Publisher: Rizzoli (October 15, 1997)
This is an intimate history of John Galliano's career, from his first entry into the fashion world in 1984, to his triumphs as the creative director of Givenchy and heir-apparent at Dior.
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