John Galliano (Oct 2001)
INGRID SISCHY: Hi, John. How are you?
JG: I'm good, and you?
IS: Fine. We are doing this special issue about the fact that Paris seems to have come back from the dead. Tell us about your decision to leave London and go to Paris in the '90s.
JG: I went to a traditional art school--Saint Martins [College of Art & Design] in London. A hunger for Paris was instilled in me early on; Paris was definitely the place to go. Even when I was based in London, I made my pilgrimage with my sales team to Paris, because this is where most of the Italian, French, Japanese and American buyers were. And when I was based in London, as with many young, struggling designers, production was a great problem. Of course, commercially speaking, if I'd had some kind of link-up with Milan and a production backup, I would have gone there rather than to Paris. But I was still trying to set up my own business, so it made sense to come to Paris, where the big guys were. It was difficult. When I say we had no money I mean when we had the flu we'd have to rustle up enough money to buy a pepper and some bread so we'd sweat. But our belief in fashion made us go through with it.
IS: Tell us how you went from starving young designer to where you are now. Start with having left London after that groundbreaking show you did in Paris, updating the obi theme for your own line. After a lot of struggle and help, your business was set up in the Bastille in the early '90s and--
JG: Well, the most amazing thing happened! These fantastic society ladies came traipsing down to the Bastille and ordering these bias-cut dresses and things, so I think it got to be known in Paris that John was not only dressing young, funky people, but haute couture ladies were also coming to see him. I think that rang a few bells.
IS: And then?
JG: I was offered to be the designer of the haute couture and the pret-a-porter at Givenchy.
IS: Just like in a fairy tale. And now one of your responsibilities is that you're in charge of women's fashion at Dior ready-to-wear and couture. What did you think when all this started happening, John?
IS: And now when you're working, let's say, in one of the back rooms at Dior--
JG: --Which back room, sweetie? [both laugh] Do you mean the atelier? You've got to remember that I'd never really worked for anyone before, and certainly never worked within the structures of a grand house like Givenchy or Dior. One day I was scrambling around in the Bastille, the next day I was in this building with guys in white lab coats looking like scientists.
IS: And once you started working together? JG: It just completely clicked.
IS: Does it surprise you that couture, in fact, can still be a relevant subject, when for like the last 20 or 30 years it was so often thought of as dead?
JG: I'm sure it isn't, I mean there are no incroyables running down the streets today, either.
IS: I saw some leaving your Dior show. [both laugh)
John Galliano is creative Director for christian Dior haute couture, women's ready-to-wear and John Galliano.