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Chanel Iman wearing Dior by John Galliano in Paris A/W 2009 show │© Pascal Le Segretain / WikiCommons
Chanel Iman wearing Dior by John Galliano in Paris A/W 2009 show │© Pascal Le Segretain / WikiCommons

The Style Guide to John Galliano

Picture of Paul McQueen
Updated: 27 January 2017
There is no one who has hit the highs and lows of fashion quite like John Galliano. He is a modern master of couture, capable of conjuring an exhilarating collection out of the dusty pages of history. But he will also be forever remembered as the designer whose drunken, hateful tirade precipitated one of the fastest falls from grace on record. So, what does style mean to Galliano?

How has John Galliano influenced fashion?

Designing with history

Ever since his French Revolution-inspired graduate collection, entitled Les Incroyables, Galliano has exhibited a desire to learn from the detail of period styles and adapt them for a contemporary audience. As contradictory as it might sound, his obsession with the past is what fuels his belief in constantly pushing fashion forward. So far, he has produced shows on the themes of Edwardian elegance, the Red Guards, the ’50s in America, the Surrealist movement, and the late-1990s sci-fi smash The Matrix. His Spring-Summer 1992 ready-to-wear show was a reimagining of the wardrobe of Joséphine, the first wife of Napoleon I.

Championing bias cut

Galliano’s reinvention of bias-cut dresses was one of his earliest contributions. The technique behind these pieces, the cutting of fabric at a 45-degree angle to its warp and weft threads, affords elasticity, allowing them to accentuate body lines and curves or to drape effortlessly depending on the narrowness of the cut. As Anna Wintour, a long-time supporter, once said: ‘The bias-cut slip dress is really a symbol of what women wore at night in the 90s, and that was John, completely John.’ The clothing and setting of Galliano’s 1994 show changed Paris Fashion Week forever.

Fulfilling the flamboyancy quota

As soon as Galliano hit the big time, he took on the role of the fashion jester. His end of show appearances came to be anticipated almost as much as the clothes he’d just sent down the runway, though there was always just a hint of the pirate in whatever he wore. His antics were a win-win for everybody: fashion insiders had a new eccentric hero to rally around and those on the outside, or at least the haters, had a fresh source of ammunition for ridiculing the industry. For a full recap of Galliano’s looks, check out the video below.

Revitalizing the house of Dior

The first piece Galliano created at Dior was for Princess Diana to wear to the Christian Dior exhibition at the Met in New York in 1996. As breathtaking as the peacock blue dress was, critics chose to reserve judgement on the young designer’s suitability to his new post. His Spring/Summer 1997 show, a perfect blend of classic Dior themes and Masai motifs, stunned and delighted. Excitement and fun had been returned to haute couture. Within four years, sales at Dior had doubled. For many, his Spring/Summer 2007 collection, which celebrated his 10th anniversary at Dior and the brand’s 60th, was his most moving.

John Galliano’s biography: what you need to know

When and where was John Galliano born? November 28th, 1960, in Gibraltar.

What is his full name? Juan Carlos Antonio Galliano-Guillén

Where did he grow up? Galliano moved to Streatham, South London, with his family when he was six and later to the nearby districts of Dulwich and Brockley.

How did he get his big break? Galliano’s graduate collection at Central Saint Martins was bought in its entirety by Browns, a London boutique, in 1984. He had some success in the rest of the decade and early 1990s but it wasn’t until Anna Wintour and André Leon Talley helped him stage a major show at Portuguese socialite Sao Schlumberger’s Parisian home in 1994 that fashion bigwigs started to take notice.

How did he make his name? Galliano’s reputation as a fashion force of global significance was solidified in July 1995 when he was appointed the head designer at Givenchy, making him the first Briton to lead a French couture house. Just over a year later, he moved on to the top job at Dior with his compatriot Alexander McQueen filling his post.

Why was 2011 such a bad year for him? On February 25th, 2011, Dior announced the immediate suspension of Galliano’s contract following his arrest for making anti-Semitic remarks. In the run-up to Paris Fashion Week for Fall/Winter 2011-12, Galliano was secretly filmed verbally abusing a Jewish couple in a Parisian bar. On September 8th that year, Galliano was found guilty and ordered to pay €6,000 in suspended fines.

How did he make his comeback? In early 2013, American Vogue’s editor-in-chief again intervened to turn around Galliano’s fortunes, convincing Oscar de la Renta to take the disgraced designer on as an aide for his Fall/Winter ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week. On October 6th, 2014, it was announced that Galliano would take over the creative direction of Maison Margiela, the esteemed Belgian fashion house.

What’s the latest news about him? In an interview with The Business of Fashion on December 3rd, 2016, Galliano appeared happier and healthier than ever. On his relatively new position, he said: ‘I’m not yet in my full stride in Maison Margiela. But I’m more in the moment, doing the best that I can and leaving options open.’

5 Famous John Galliano quotes to use in your next conversation and/or Instagram post

Style is wearing an evening dress to McDonald’s, wearing heels to play football. It is personality, confidence and seduction.

Women are women, and hurray for that.

You shouldn’t ask why do you wear a hat? What you really should be asking is why are you not? How can a look be complete without a hat?

Fashion is above all an art of change.

Everything looks better in the morning.