* British designer kept Dior on cutting edge
* Excesses crept from catwalk into personal life
By Nick Vinocur
PARIS, June 22 John Galliano brought flair,
vision and a touch of outrage to Dior when he joined the
Parisian brand over a decade ago, keeping it in the spotlight as
some other legacy fashion houses faded into quaintness.
But it was outrage off the catwalk that has destroyed his
career and left his future in doubt.
In court on Wednesday on charges of anti-Semitic behaviour,
after a series of outbursts to strangers that prompted Dior to
fire him in March as its creative director, Galliano said an
addiction to drugs and drinks had left him out of control.
Galliano tells court he lost it on booze, drugs [ID:nLDE75L1X4]
The British designer's abrupt departure from Dior, three
days before he was to present its fall-winter womenswear
collection, marked the end of one of the longest-running and
most successful collaborations in the world of high fashion.
His show for Christian Dior, owned by luxury group LVMH,
went ahead without him, winning a standing ovation from fashion
editors, store buyers, supermodels and celebrities.
Yet the sorry saga has wrecked one of the most head-turning
design careers of recent decades, with Galliano spending recent
weeks undergoing treatment in the United States for addiction to
alcohol, valium and sleeping pills.
"I have a triple addiction," Galliano, wearing long sandy
hair and trademark razor-thin moustache, told the court on
Wednesday. "Alcohol, sleeping pills and Valium."
Before Dior, Galliano was already making a name with his
flamboyant style, dressing stars like Kylie Minogue and Madonna.
In the late 1990s he chopped off his dreadlocks for a job
interview with Dior, and over the following years cemented his
reputation as one of the most influential living designers
alongside Karl Lagerfeld, Tom Ford and Jean-Paul Gaultier.
His collections for Dior were uproarious jaunts that often
drew on history, interpreting centuries of fashion trends in a
single show and bringing the brand newfound popularity among the
fashionistas of Latin America and the Far East.
Born in 1960 in Gibraltar, Galliano moved at age six to
London where he later attended Central Saint Martin's College of
Art and Design, graduating with first class honours. His first
show, "Les Incroyables", was inspired by the French Revolution.
BRITON TAKES PARIS BY STORM
With his sense of visual impact, Galliano soon reaped the
critical accolades, taking home the award for British Designer
of the Year four times between 1987 and 1997 -- the last of
which he shared with the late designer Alexander McQueen.
Obsessed with theatre and celebrities, Galliano designed
Madonna's costumes in the 1996 film "Evita" and was cited as the
model for the fictional fashion guru in the comedy "Zoolander".
In the early 1990s he moved to Paris, where he earned the
patronage of fashion gurus and high society figures who gave him
both the visibility and financial backing to compete on the same
plane as some of the best-known names in the business.
His first show under his own name, reportedly prepared in
two weeks, established his name in the fashion capital and set
him up to become Givenchy's first British designer in 1995.
Two years later, he moved to Dior.
Although he presided over a highly successful period at
Dior, industry insiders say his shaky personal life began to
overshadow his public persona following the suicide of one of
his closest advisers two years ago.
Media reports of unruly or capricious behaviour grew more
frequent until his alleged outburst and the online circulation
of a video clip in March that showed him slurring anti-Semitic
insults at people in a bar.
The controversy changed his image overnight from glamorous
star designer to lonely and troubled drinker, and brought a hail
of condemnation. U.S. Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman, who
has a deal to promote a Dior perfume, issued a statement saying
she wanted nothing more to do with him.
Some friends in the fashion world have been less harsh.
"What happened to you on Thursday night at this nice
Parisian cafe, La Perle, fighting with this couple?" asked
Olivier Zahm, editor of online fashion magazine Purple Diary, in
a letter entitled "John, I Love You" posted at the time.
"I know that you are not at all a racist -- whatever you
said, drunk or not, to them!"
(Editing by Catherine Bremer and Paul Casciato)