A cloud currently hangs over John Galliano's legacy as well as the future of his namesake line, following his firing in the wake of allegations of anti-Semitic outbursts. Though executives from parent group LVMH have made a point of noting the label is open for business, it remains to be seen if and when the man himself can recover professionally. If his fall from grace has been spectacular, so at his best are his skills as a designer. Born in Gibraltar and brought up in England, Galliano—who was made a Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001—has been known for his mesmerizing clothes and presentations since 1984, when his French Revolution-themed graduation collection at Central Saint Martins launched him onto the international scene at the age of 24. Three years later, the self-described "club kid" from South London was named British Designer of the Year. He was so honored three more times in the 1990's.
Ovations, however, are one thing; commercial success is another. The road was a long and winding one. After a move to Paris in the early nineties, Galliano struggled to get his label off the ground, but with a little help from socialite São Schlumberger and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, he scraped together a supermodel-studded show—and made fashion history. Women's Wear Daily called the spectacle, which had Naomi et al. posing in furs, mini-kimonos, and wispy skirts amid Victorian couches and broken crystal candelabra, "one of the most transporting and memorable fashion happenings of the decade." Bernard Arnault of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton responded by installing Galliano as creative director of Givenchy, and, in 1996, appointing him design director of Christian Dior, a position Galliano held until his ouster in 2011.
Thirties-inflected chiffon cut on the bias are among Galliano's signatures, as have been imaginative hats made in collaboration with Stephen Jones—from birds' nests to feathered headdresses—and a global outlook. From Yemeni tribes to a camp California Valley of the Dolls, no reference was too far-flung for a Galliano interpretation. This cultural omnivorousness makes an ironic counterpoint to reports of his recent behavior. The house of John Galliano celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2009. He was ejected from the company by its board two years later.
John Galliano: Spring 2011 RTW
Runway, backstage, and front-row footage from the Paris show.