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John Galliano

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In 1984 Galliano unleashed his own label. More critical approval followed. His daring reinvention of romantic themes and delicate, superbly tailored garments were his trademarks.

However, critical success was not matched by major financial success. He lost backers and did not have enough money to show for several seasons. In frustration, he quit London for Paris in the early 1990s. This was not an immediate solution. Several times Galliano was almost forced to declare bankruptcy. This was made all the more bitter by the fact that, while he struggled for money, his critical praise continued unabated.

Fortunately, the admiration of the fashion community allowed him to continue. Fashion editors and critics were always busy trying to get work for Galliano, and models, like Kate Moss, worked for him out of friendship rather than money.

In 1992 John Galliano presented his "Princess Lucretia" collection with extravagant crinolines. His 1994 collection was financed by John Bult, Swiss Chairman of Paine Webber International, an investment bank. It was held in the Paris mansion of Portuguese socialite Sao Schlumberger. The show made fashion headlines and had buyers rushing to order.

No longer plagued by the unstable financial backing of a decade ago, Galliano is now part of the stable of luxury designer firms held by French conglomerate LVMH. In 1995, LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault tapped Galliano as chief designer of Givenchy�controversial, as he was the first Brit to hold the post�then deposited him two years later as head of design at Christian Dior. Galliano now creates some dozen collections a year, including couture, ready-to-wear, accessories and eyewear for Dior, as well as directing his own eponymous label.

The Look

He has managed to balance fantasy and classicism, which is very difficult to achieve. Galliano raids history for ideas. From the Highlands of Scotland to the Russian steppes, from thirties style sleek evening gowns, to kilts, tulle ball gowns, farthingales, frock coats, hourglass silhouettes, even 1940's gangster garb. His interpretation is unique, with a highly defined sense of the theatrical, and his technical skills are thoroughly modern. He has trained himself in the craft of fashion, not only the art. His garments have a tremendous sense of romance and whimsical charm, coupled with precision tailoring. His exquisite slip dresses, floating ball gowns or exotically tailored suits, float above fashion, remarkable in their unashamed loveliness. He also depends on a team of superbly artistic designers for his accessories, Stephen Jones for hats, Manolo Blahnik for shoes, Odile Gilber for hair styles and Stephenie Marais for make up. They all seem to adore him and his clothes. John also gives chances to young designers to work with him. Parisienne Vanessa Bellanger is one of his assistants at present.

Who Wears It

The eclectic Galliano has dressed everyone from Diana, Princess of Wales (in a dark blue lace-edged evening gown) and Cate Blanchett (her 1999 Academy Awards dress featured embroidered flowers and a tattoo-like hummingbird) to burlesque diva Dita Von Teese.


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