The fifth volume of the acclaimed Assouline Dior series focuses on John Galliano’s extraordinary designs and shows during his time as artistic director for the French fashion house from 1996 till 2011. Galliano’s journey with fashion began when he was a student at Central Saint Martins and later worked as a dresser at the National Theatre. Tapping beyond his creative senses, he learned the art of costume design and illusion. He graduated in 1988 and debuted his first collection, inspired by the French Revolution, which sold at Browns Boutique. His frequent visits to London’s nightclubs exposed him to the city’s rich creative society, an environment that imprinted on his expressive persona.
Almost immediately, Galliano launched his own brand, which significantly stood out as avant-garde, grabbing the attention of the British elite. He then joined Givenchy as creative director in 1995. The following year, he was appointed artistic director of the Dior women’s collections. He reinvented fashion through extraordinary shows and kaleidoscopic looks fueled by romantic innovation and history. “I’ve been rehearsing for this moment for 15 years,” Galliano shared with British Vogue at the time.
His sculptural work earned him the moniker “master of the silhouette.” The adrenaline rush evoked by his revamped take on fashion during that time was spurred by an audacious combination of history and pop. “His reinterpretation of Dior’s Bar jacket, for instance, a version of which he produced in black-and-white houndstooth, one of Dior’s favorite materials, featured signature elements from Galliano’s repertoire, including disappearing lapels and glove closures on the sleeves,” says Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, who wrote the tome. The book is part of the series that Dior is crafting in honor of each of its creative directors. Like a picture album, it paints a memorable story inked within each of the photographs of Galliano’s work by Laziz Hamani, Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, Irving Penn, and Paolo Roversi. His work is enough to tell his story, as his designs are stitched with threads of his travels, his passion for film, art, the stage, and culture – modernizing his inspirations into reinvented contemporary art. “Often these references would be combined in a single collection, resulting in a postmodern potpourri of anachronistic juxtapositions,” shares Bolton.
The book draws attention to Galliano’s collections that were culturally influenced by the Maasai of east Africa, or the Ancient Egyptians. It also focuses on his signature bows and suits, including the matador outfit and space suit. “I’m here for modernity and passion. Also, because I respect tradition. I have to understand it in order to move forward. I must preserve Dior’s romantic, feminine, and modern ambience. My heart is very close to that of Monsieur Dior. I’m here to prune some branches to help the tree grow better… Most of all, I wonder, what would Monsieur Dior do if he were here today? How would he have evolved over time? My goal is not just to make retro styles… It’s my Dior style,” Galliano shared.
Dior by John Galliano is available from February 15 in English and French. Assouline.com
Originally published in the February 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia