In 1961 Juan Carlos Antonio Galliano was born of Spanish parents Anita and Juan Carlos Galliano. In 1966 his parents emigrated to London with Juan and two daughters. He attended Wilsons Grammar School and excelled in languages. While doing his A levels, he took up textiles and put together a portfolio to present to St. Martins College of art. He was accepted. He experimented with bias cutting, reviving and refining it. He worked with Tommy Nutter, in Savile Row, London's famous tailors street. He noticed that sleeves swung forwards, as if cut on the curve, so that you could really move your arms. He began cutting sleeves in a spiral so that his armholes could be neat and even cut trousers on the bias to make legs look slender.

During 1983 at the Victoria and Albert Museum costume archives, they allowed John to spend time sketching and examining dresses by Vionnet and other classic designers and he kept this research secret.

In 1984 his graduation collection at St. Martins was 8 garments called "Les Incroyables" a fantastic, impeccably produced series of garments based on French Revolutionary garments of the 1790's. Joan Burstein of Browns, snapped up all the dresses and put them in her window. They sold out at once, one was bought by singer Diana Ross.

John was offered a job in New York, but just as he was leaving, Joan Burstein called him for a repeat order. He and his friends made the garments at top speed and he was on his way to success.

In 1985 while designing clothes for the album cover of Malcolm McLaren's Madame Butterfly, he met Amanda Grieve (later Lady Harlech) who was a fashion stylist noted for originality. They worked together on a series of exotic collections with names like "Afghanistan repudiates Western Ideals" and "Fallen Angels" or "Blanche du Bois" or "Lucid Game". She has remained his great friend and a muse who takes an active part in his creative process, accessorising his extraordinary clothes with frail twiggy birdsnest hats and shoes like 18th century.

Galliano officially launched his own label in 1984, producing historically influenced designs laced with a contemporary edge. Part romantic, part maverick, Galliano was always a couturier at heart and delicate bias-cut gowns and superbly tailored suits fast became his trademark.

In 1987, they won him his first British Designer of The Year award. But his financial difficulties did not end, so in 1990, Galliano turned his back on London and joined the ranks of international designers seeking their fortunes at the ready-to-wear collections in Paris. There a friend lent him studio space and Andre Leon Talley, creative director of American Vogue, took him under his wing and introduced him to everyone important in Paris.

In 1989, he started presenting collections of slinky bias cut Dresses.

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. She has been dressed by Dior and Chanel, but says "Galliano is a great designer". The show made fashion headlines and had buyers rushing to order. Galliano says "we had time to show only 17 outfits but each was perfect."

In 1995, John Galliano presented his "Back to the 40's" Collection. He also dressed Diana, Princess of Wales in a dark blue lace-edged evening gown.

Happily, in 1995, Galliano was appointed chief designer at Givenchy, becoming the first British designer to head a French couture house. He grabbed headlines with a series of risqué designs aimed to transform the profile and fortunes of the back-dated company.

A year later, on 14 October 1996, Galliano was awarded the glittering prize of the house of Christian Dior - Givenchy's stablemate at LVMH. His first couture show for Dior coincided with the label's 50th anniversary, 20 January 1997. These days, between his label and Dior, Galliano is responsible for producing six couture and ready-to-wear collections a year and a new mid-season range under his own name. He also follows a rigorous exercise regime, which sees him rise at 6am each morning to complete a gruelling, 40-minute aerobic session with his personal trainer, before embarking on a 10-minute stretch, 150 push-ups and a six-mile jog along the banks of the Seine.

In 2000, he went as far as to claim that he also had found his inspiration for the couture collection of boho-meets-hobo chic he unveiled that January during his jogging sessions, as he ran past les clochards, the homeless people, lining the river, adding that he hoped to expose the pure decadence of the couture by "turning it inside out".

2001 Late in the year, John Galliano was awarded a C.B.E. by Queen Elizabeth of England, for his services to fashion. When word got out, there was great speculation as to what outrageous clothes he would wear for the ceremony. However, he was quite sober, only wearing the customary morning coat made by Brioni but without a shirt underneath. It was the eve of his 41st birthday.

He was made a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honour in January 2009.

In June 2010 the designer was given France's highest award, the Legion of Honour, by Nicholas Sarkozy.

The 2010 season saw him celebrate 15 years working at Dior - he marked the occasion with a collection inspired by one of Dior's long-term friends and original illustrators, Rene Gruau.

In February 2011, Galliano was arrested for an alleged assault and shortly afterwards a video appeared online of him apparently making anti-Semitic remarks towards people in a Paris bar. As a result, Dior dismissed him from his role as creative director on March 1 2011.

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.


2008 John Galliano (W)
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