John Galliano - Biography
Nowadays, news of a British designer heading up a French couture house makes few waves. Stella, Alexander and Julien have all done their bit as British exports on the other side of the channel. But when John Galliano was appointed by the Givenchy label in 1995, it caused a major stir.
Born in Gibraltar in 1960, John moved to South London with his family when he was six years old. His interest in fashion was cultivated from an early age by his mother, who insisted that John dress in his Sunday best just to go to the corner shop, and it seemed a natural progression when he gained a place at the prestigious St Martins College of Art & Design. He earned a First in 1983, with his graduation collection causing such a splash that it had the world's fashion editors talking and was snapped up in its entirety by a chic London boutique.
Launching his own-name label in London the following year, the designer, whose clothes blend historical influence and contemporary trends, soon became a key name on the fashion scene. He was named British Designer of the Year in 1987, giving a well-needed boost to the UK's fashion industry. But the British capital was not fashionable enough for him and, three years later, the slightly-built son of a plumber moved his operation to Paris, in order to show at the ready-to-wear collections.
As his clothes became less deconstructed and more elegant, the grands fromages of Paris began to sit up and take notice. Soon a deal was cut with luxury conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton to help stave off financial problems threatening Galliano's own-name label. It proved a wise move as LVMH were also the owners of Givenchy, and saw the cachet an edgy British designer could bring to the slightly staid fashion house. He took over over from aristocratic designer Hubert de Givenchy - credited with giving Audrey Hepburn her chic image - who had spent 43 years designing fancy frocks for ladies who lunch. Galliano soon had those ladies choking on their carpaccio as he began to inject a new vigour into couture.
Just one year on, Galliano was offered the top creative job at Christian Dior, the crème de la crème of Paris fashion. His first collection, coinciding with the label's 50th anniversary in 1997, placed a whole raft of supermodels on the catwalk, and drew a new type of customer to the label. The idiosyncratic designer's work is so popular with the fashion crowd that many top models work the runways at his shows - he does six couture and ready-to-wear collections a year and a new mid-season own-name range - in return for his clothes.
After a spectacular run at the fashion house, his contract came to an abrupt end when he was dismissed for allegedly making anti-Semetic remarks to a couple while at a bar in Paris' Marais district. The incident, which occurred ahead of Paris Fashion Week in late February 2011, was investigated by police - while John himself vehemently denied all accusations of racism.
Despite his charge's denials, Dior's president Sidney Toledano released a statement announcing the termination of his contract in light of the "odious behaviour" - which was also captured on camera by bystanders.
"I condemn most firmly the statements made by John Galliano which are total contradiction with the essential values that have always been defended by the House of Christian Dior," he said.