Six of John Galliano’s craziest moments at Dior

At 4:30 p.m. on January 21, 1996, John Galliano made history as the first British designer to present a collection at a French fashion house since World War II. His time at Givenchy was short-lived, but the appointment marked a turning point for the industry, as he ushered a generation of disobedient, upstart designers into the upper echelons of haute couture, including Alexander McQueen. Within 12 months, LVMH had poached Galliano, the 15 years he then spent at the helm of Dior cementing his status as one of the most terrifying, sensitive and chaotic contemporary canons.

Some 20 years later, Dior de Galliano feels even wilder than it did then, a time of fierce creativity that lives decontextualized and detached through Twitter feeds and archival Instagram accounts. Seeking to remedy this, a new 448-page tome chronicling Galliano’s tenure, which is the fifth volume in an Assouline series tracing Dior’s journey to the present day. It wasn’t always meant to be like this, though. Coming from a background in illustration, Galliano didn’t really want to design clothes until Sheridan Barnett, a tutor at Central Saint Martins, pushed him to do a graduation collection.

After spending his degree being romanticized by vintage cartoons of debauched Marie Antoinette and Parisian prostitutes, Galliano saw fashion as the epitome of storytelling. And what he lacked in technical prowess (he once used red wine as a fabric dye) he more than made up for in imagination. Flanked by Pat McGrath and Philip Treacy, he was the first designer to turn the catwalk into a theatre, sending his lavish terrors and over-the-top heroines through giant sets and simmering house music – which Anna Wintour despised, understandably. It was a time when models flew, prowled and posed on the catwalk and Galliano encouraged “girls” to think of themselves as characters, not hangers.

From Madame Butterfly to Versailles via the Opéra Garnier, Galliano has staged thrilling odysseys of escaped princesses and gypsy queens. And while he was responsible for some of the most commercially successful pieces of the time – bias-cut slips, newspaper prints and, of course, the Saddle Bag – his dedication to fantasy and spectacle was like a breath of fresh air. As his collections crossed place and time, so did he, shedding wigs, makeup and costumes at the turn of each season. Because as he said, “fashion is above all an art of change” – a philosophy that he embodied. Below, we take a look at some of the craziest moments to come from Galliano’s time at Dior. Just, you know, no this a.

Dior John Galliano 1997-2011 is available for pre-order before its official release on February 15

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