John Galliano (1960). English designer. “Simplicity is a such a bore! Sometimes the real fun is in bad taste!” This is the provocation, in the best tradition of British eccentricity, of the designer born in Gibraltar in a Spanish family who learned the art and technique of tailoring in London in that mine of talent which is the Central Saint Martin’s School. Very interested in folklore and the history of costume, and a true subversive spirit, he loved to dress as an Elizabethan pirate and to design theme Collections: from his final exam at Saint Martin’s in 1983 entitled Les Incroyables to his first Collection in 1984 called Afghanistan Repudiates Western Ideals and those created for Christian Dior starting in January 1997. In one of those paradoxes of late 20th century fashion, that maison had become a coveted prey of high finance, and when the eccentric Englishman arrived in Paris in the mid 1990s in search of fortune and patrons, he was spotted by the emperor of luxury goods Bernard Arnault who, through the LVMH group, was in control of Dior. Succeeding Ferré, Galliano became artistic director. Neither the archives on Avenue Montaigne nor the clothes of the 25 Collections designed by the creator of the New Look starting 1947 held any secrets from this avid consumer of history. He was charmed by Dior’s muse Germaine Bricard, known as Mitzah, and by the world that cosmopolitan lady evoked, the first years of the 20th century and the folly of the years before the catastrophe of World War I. Thus, from January 1997, every Dior Collection was a performance characterized by the historical reconstruction of an ambience or an event, with exotic references to far off lands and cultures. The leit motif was always the seduction of clothes cut on the bias, and fabrics that swayed gently, of drapery that wasn’t used for interiors but hinted at the mystery of the female body. A leit motif which led the designer to perfection in his prêt-à-porter Collections: less pyrotechnic but probably more loved by women who are truly elegant.
On the occasion of his 41st birthday, he is received at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elisabeth, who confers the decoration of Commander of the British Empire on him for his achievements in the world of fashion.
In Paris, he presents a Collection with his own personal name, a brand which belongs to the LVMH group, same as Dior. The principal motif is, once again, flare, in all its possible interpretations. His new skirt moves, dances, and sways at even the slightest movement. It is either cut on the bias or flared, in panels or deep tight pleats that open like a wheel thanks to the insertion of light diagonal strips of fabric. The rhythm is boogie-woogie, the atmosphere that of the period after World War I, revisited in an ironic and somewhat comic strip key: herringbone tweed for tailored suits combined with muslin, knitwear decorated with ribbons and pompoms, flesh-colored lingerie, high platform shoes of the 1940s, and tiny silk dresses with cherry prints. A play on zippers stresses the flare of the white maxi-trench lined with fox. Galliano closes the presentation in a theatrical way wrapped in loose-fitting fox stoles.
He opens his first single-brand boutique at Rue Saint Honoré 384 in Paris, where he has lived since 1991. The architect is Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Galliano boutiques are also planned for New York and Tokyo.
The designer launches his first men’s Collection, at the men’s fashion presentations in Paris for Autumn-Winter 2003-2004. It is produced by Gibò, a compamy led by Franco Pené.