John Galliano - Biography

Born in Gibraltar in 1960, Dior's chief designer John Galliano graduated from London's prestigious St Martins College of Art & Design with a first-class degree in 1983.

John Galliano

His graduation collection, called 'Les Incroyables' and inspired by the French Revolution, met with immediate acclaim (Vogue's Spy column described Galliano as "a modish costumier, with a preference for romanticism and androgyny"). The collection was snapped up in its entirety by Joan Burstein, who put the designs in the window of her South Molton Street boutique, Browns, during London Fashion Week. Among those who saw the display was the French designer Joseph, who placed an order with Galliano, sparking feverish interest in the fabulously inventive young graduate.
Galliano officially launched his own label in 1984, producing historically influenced designs laced with a contemporary edge. Part romantic, part maverick, Galliano was always a couturier at heart and delicate bias-cut gowns and superbly tailored suits fast became his trademark. In 1987, they won him his first British Designer of The Year award. But his financial difficulties did not end, so in 1990, Galliano turned his back on London and joined the ranks of international designers seeking their fortunes at the ready-to-wear collections in Paris.
Before securing a contract with luxury conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Galliano faced bankruptcy on more than one occasion despite consistent critical acclaim. His salvation was the loyalty he inspired in other figures within the fashion business, like Kate Moss, who were prepared to work for little more than love in the early years.
Happily, in 1995, Galliano was appointed chief designer at Givenchy, becoming the first British designer to head a French couture house. He grabbed headlines with a series of risqu� designs aimed to transform the profile and fortunes of the back-dated company. A year later, on 14 October 1996, Galliano was awarded the glittering prize of the house of Christian Dior - Givenchy's stablemate at LVMH. His first couture show for Dior coincided with the label's 50th anniversary, 20 January 1997.
These days, between his label and Dior, Galliano is responsible for producing six couture and ready-to-wear collections a year and a new mid-season range under his own name. He also follows a rigorous exercise regime, which sees him rise at 6am each morning to complete a gruelling, 40-minute aerobic session with his personal trainer, before embarking on a 10-minute stretch, 150 push-ups and a six-mile jog along the banks of the Seine. "Working flat out, it was a necessary step to take," he once said. "It helps to concentrate the mind and I find that I have so much more energy and focus." In 2000, he went as far as to claim that he also had found his inspiration for the couture collection of boho-meets-hobo chic he unveiled that January during his jogging sessions, as he ran past les clochards, the homeless people, lining the river, adding that he hoped to expose the pure decadence of the couture by "turning it inside out".
Galliano won the title British Designer of The Year in 1987, 1994, and 1995. In 1997, he shared the award with Alexander McQueen, his successor at Givenchy.

From interview with John Galliano:

JOHN GALLIANO: I'm sorry. I was so tired. I'm working hard. But here I am. I wouldn't let you down. Not you. Not you with your thumb ring. I like that. Scary. HAL RUBENSTEIN: You're sure it's not because you've been going out all the time? Last time you were here you and [Vogue creative director] Andre Leon Talley closed down Sally's II [a major drag bar located across the street from The New York Times]. JG: But you took us there. It was wicked. HR: Did you go out last night? JG: We went with Naomi and Kate [Moss]. Where? I don't know. Oh, we had that dinner with Anna [Wintour] first. It was . . . oh, I can't tell you. You'll print it and get me in trouble. I'm going to say something I shouldn't. I think I'm going to go to bed now. I love New York. But the energy is so intense. HR: Are you going to stay through the Gay Games? JG: No. I've got to work. This girl's got patterns to cut. Is it going to be fab? HR: Eleven thousand athletes and between half a million and one million people on Gay Pride Day. JG: A million! My God. I don't know. That's a lot. I saw the Puerto Rican Day thing. That was wicked. All those Communion dresses with little crowns. All those colors. Go, girl. Look at your shoes. They're great. What are they? HR: Old Sperry Topsider sneakers. Deck shoes. JG: They're great. Your foot talks, you know. [removes his shoes and socks to reveal brilliantly vermilion toes] You like my toenails, don't you? HR: Even better than the color the models had on during the show. JG: Thank you. Revlon. Jungle Red. But Chanel does it, too. Some lady pulled it out of her bag and gave it to me. HR: Were you pleased with the show yesterday? JG: I don't know. Didn't see it. I was so busy backstage. But the girls were wicked. And Oribe's hair was really fab. Sexy. Oh, I never got a chance to tell him thank-you. What about David Bowie? He's a sexy creature. You should come upstairs and meet Jeremey [Healey]. He did the music for the show. He's my best friend, really fab. I've known him longer than I've been designing. HR: How long is that? JG: As soon as I graduated, in 1984. HR: Did you always want to design? JG: You mean, like, when I was little, did I go around dressing dollies up? I'm not a faggot. I don't love dolls. I love women. I love their bodies. Look at you. Working the T-shirt, girl. HR: What do you want from me? It's 99 degrees out. JG: And you're working it. HR: Do you feel lots of pressure because of the extensive editorial coverage you've received in the States? JG: Yes. But I'm going to be a real good boy and take it day by day and try to concentrate on what's most important to me, and that's offering women a service. HR: What kind of service? JG: Couture. HR: But what about all these rumblings that couture is dead? JG: Because it's gotten so expensive. It doesn't need to be. It should be available to any woman. HR: Then you can justify a dress costing $30,000? JG: It won't cost that much from me, but yeah. People give that much money away to charity. Why can't you indulge that much on yourself? What you're paying for is technique. And the opportunity to look truly wicked. Isn't it worth it as long as you look wicked and feel good? Look at those ladies who came to the show yesterday. They give to charity and then they buy dresses. They looked fab. HR: What about the woman who loves clothes but doesn't have $30,000 for a dress? JG: Why should she pay that much? My dresses are very reasonably priced, for dresses that are cut on the body. Understand--I cut them on the body. That makes it special. HR: Would you rather be doing this than anything else? JG: I love women. I love work. Hide that tummy, elongate that neck, shade the butt. I enjoy it. I'm an accomplice to helping women get what they want. [screeches] I just love it! HR: And what do they want? JG: Oh, you know. Come on. Sex. It's so subversive. Everyone wants to be sexually attractive and have people tell them that they've tapped into their sexual power. Unfortunately, when was the last time you heard a man say to a woman, "You look beautiful"? I'm into it. But it's a dying trade, man. HR: Why is it dying? JG: The problem is with men. I know I shouldn't say this, but they've shrouded and hidden women to hide their incompetence. Men don't want another man to look at their woman because they don't know how to handle it. But women are finally realizing that the only reason men want them to wear these shapeless, baggy clothes is because they don't want the other men to know how good the next fuck is. Well, go, girl! HR: Do all women see this, or is it just European or American women? JG: Doesn't matter. Paris, New York. Women are women, and hurray for that. HR: Are there any other big problems in fashion right now? JG: Dressing up. People just don't do it anymore. We have to change that. Bring back occasion dressing, glamour. There's room for the Gap, but the joy of dressing is an art. HR: Men don't have a clue. JG: They used to, in the eighteenth century. They were the peacocks. Now they feel threatened. HR: Are women afraid, as well? JG: They shouldn't be. What's wrong with vanity? We have to make it fashionable, man. HR: What about the business of fashion? You don't have a big-money machine behind you. Would you have to compromise to have that, or isn't it something that you want? JG: I don't care about money. I really don't care. I just want to do what I do. HR: Oh, everyone says they don't care. But it's just as easy to work hard and make money as it is to work hard and make none. Besides, in order to keep doing what you do, you need money. JG: Well, if someone believes in me, I'll take it. Sure, I'd like to be like the House of Chanel. "The House of Galliano." Yeah, that's what I'm working for. The couture house of the future. HR: Can't you have big money behind you and still be an artist? JG: But I'm not an artist. Maybe an artist with a small a. I told you, I'm in service. Look at your ring. It's cute. HR: I've worn it since my parents gave it to me when I was thirteen. JG: I don't know if I've had anything that long. HR: Are you close to your parents? JG: They live in England. I've got a Spanish mum. She's a gypsy, and my dad's from Gibraltar. I love my mum. HR: Did she teach you to sew? JG: She taught me to flamenco-dance on table-tops. I do that on some nights. But she can't sew a button. My dad showed me. HR: Does he know a lot about fashion? JG: He knows he loves me. He's cool. [whispering in a tone of deep confession] He just had a hernia operation. HR: Why are you whispering? You shouldn't be embarrassed about it. JG: He's sore. He can't walk. [suddenly laughing hysterically] Poor thing. I love him so much. He's my best friend. He and Jeremey. HR: Do you have any brothers or sisters? JG: Two sisters. HR: Did you used to dress them? JG: No. HR: Do you dress them now? JG: No. They beg for it. I dress my mom, though. It's hard, because they don't live in Paris. My elder sister is Rosemary. My younger one is Immaculate. Wicked name. HR: Name your five favorite movies. JG: A Streetcar Named Desire. The Devil Is a Woman. Five, that's a lot! Oh God. Abel Gance's Napoleon, that's probably the best one. This is very difficult. The Sound of Music. There. HR: That's only four. JG: And Sliver. HR: What? From Napoleon to Sliver? JG: I love the virginity of it all. Love Sharon Stone. Love it. HR: It's horrible! JG: The TV screens. I love it. I love videos. I want to work on them. Do film costume. I did something for the Ballet Rambert once, but I love the idea of film costume. HR: Name five important elements that have influenced our perception of fashion. JG: Napoleon. Empress Josephine. The 1940s. Our intrinsic love of glamour. Our need for modernity. That's five? Well, one more. Me. [laughs hysterically] Me. Oh, that's a terrible thing to say. I'm going back to bed now.