Everything You Need To Know About The New John Galliano Documentary - The Gloss Magazine

Everything You Need To Know About The New John Galliano Documentary

Widely recognised as one of the most influential and successful fashion designers of our time, John Galliano opens up about his career in a new documentary directed by Kevin Macdonald, which premieres during Dublin International Film Festival …

John Galliano’s show for Maison Margiela was arguably the talking point of the recent Paris Haute Couture week. Described as “a walk through the underbelly of Paris” it was reminiscent of a Toulouse Lautrec painting with prostitutes and gamblers wearing full skirted sheer dresses with nipped-in waists and elaborate Edwardian hats. Make-up artist Pat McGrath, with whom Galliano has collaborated for more than 20 years, gave the models glassy, porcelain skin making them look like dolls. The entire production took a year to conceive; the overall effect was of an immersive fantasy, something for which John Galliano has form. Indeed, the title of the show could have been “Les Incroyables” – the same title of his famed 1988 graduation collection at London’s Central Saint Martins.

Post graduation, Galliano started his own “Galliano” fashion label before he was appointed head designer of Givenchy in 1995, the first British designer to head a French haute couture house. In October 1996, he moved to Dior and during his 15 year tenure as creative director, he cemented his status as one of the most influential and romantic designers of our time.

Some of his most memorable collections included the Geisha Collection for SS2007 inspired by traditional Japanese culture; the Egyptian-inspired SS2004 collection which featured elaborate headpieces created by Philip Treacy to complement the garments. Then there were the Ballet Collection, AW2008, The Harem Collection, SS2009 and the Masquerade Ball collection AW2000 – all a celebration of opulence, drama and mystery. No wonder he won British Designer of the Year in 1987, 1994, 1995 and 1997.

Galliano is also known for designing the floor length navy gown which Diana, Princess of Wales wore on a trip to New York in 1996, the famous Newspaper dress as worn by Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, as well as many other red carpet creations. He memorably designed Kate Moss’s bias-cut wedding dress when she married Jamie Hinch in 2011.

That same year, 2011, Galliano’s career abruptly ended after being caught on video using shocking antisemitic and racist insults. This situation is tackled in a new documentary by Kevin Macdonald High & Low – John Galliano, which investigates the multiple facets and contradictions of Galliano’s character and the context, including decades of industry pressure and drug and alcohol addiction, that surrounded his downfall and ongoing recovery.

“I was looking for a way to make a film about what happens when famous people ‘transgress’ and understand how they deal with that experience and how they seek forgiveness from society,” explains Kevin Macdonald. “Our society has a constantly evolving relationship with the idea of redemption; who can be redeemed and how. I was interested in making a documentary about what happens when you do something utterly unacceptable; how do you find forgiveness and redemption? Should you be forgiven? I intended this film to be thought-provoking and nuanced; I hope that audiences continue questioning and discussing after they leave the theatre. In our test screenings it’s been fascinating to see the differences in opinion from those who have watched it.”

The documentary features conversations with his closest friends and family and fashion insiders including Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Penelope Cruz, Charlize Theron, Anna Wintour, Edward Enninful, Boris Cyrulnik, Hamish Bowles, and Sidney Toledano among others. Galliano himself also took part.

“A mutual friend put me in touch with John Galliano and said that he was interested in discussing his career and precipitous fall in a very open way,” says Macdonald. They started talking on Zoom during the first lockdown in the summer of 2020. They first met in person in the spring of 2021 and that led to a ‘trial interview’ in August 2021. That first interview – done while John was on vacation in the south of France with his long-term partner Alexis Roche – convinced Kevin that John was not just a fascinating subject for a film but was prepared to be utterly candid and show himself in a raw and unfiltered way.

“What particularly compelled me was that John didn’t really understand what had happened himself – it was still a mystery to him. During that first six-hour interview (much of which is in the finished film) I was struck by how at ease John was – looking straight down the camera lens. It had the feeling of a confessional,” says Macdonald.

“Galliano did not have any editorial control of the film,” says Macdonald. “Throughout the process he has been helpful in introducing us to friends, family and former colleagues, but understood that film-maker objectivity was essential.”

In total Galliano was interviewed five times, mostly at his French country home near Beauvais. Filming was also conducted at Maison Margiela headquarters in early 2022 as Galliano prepared for his upcoming haute couture collection. Galliano has been creative director of Maison Margiela since 2014 (after several years working with Jewish organisations and undergoing rehab). “Cinema Inferno,” shown in front of the Eiffel Tower in the Palais Chaillot, was a unique fashion show; a theatrical-performative work with a script co-written by Galliano. The show’s autobiographical elements echoed some of the recurring themes in his life; death, abuses of power and redemption. Filming took place backstage as Galliano paced anxiously and disappeared as soon as the show ended; a far cry from the flamboyant end of show catwalks he had once been famous for.

In February 2022, Macdonald continued filming with Galliano as he returned to the Dior archives for the first time since he had been fired. Organised by LVMH and Christian Dior CEO Sidney Toledano, the trip was an emotional moment in the film; with members of the atelier reunited with him almost eleven years to the day that he left Dior. Sidney Toledano, the Jewish CEO of Christian Dior Couture, and Galliano’s former boss, is a key interviewee throughout the film and he gave an emotional and frank interview about the impact that the incidents in 2011 had on him personally.

Macdonald also interviewed one of Galliano’s victims and plaintiffs in the court case against him, Philippe Virgitti, and his lawyer, who talked openly about the impact of the abuse that was hurled at him by Galliano and the subsequent trial. Virgitti told Macdonald how his life had never returned to normal after the trial and how he still held deep resentment towards Galliano.

“I don’t have a particular interest in fashion but was interested in Galliano as a character and his role in the transformation of the industry from the late 1990s to early 2010s. We were lucky to have access to a huge trove of archive material from his days at LVMH and it was extraordinary to see John’s shy, diffident manner transform over the years,” explains Macdonald. “Even watching this documentary with the sound off you can see from the evolving face of Galliano that he is going on a journey.”

The film was produced by Chloe Mamelok and Kevin Macdonald through Macdonald’s production company, KGB Films, in association with Condé Nast Entertainment.

Need to know: Released by Mubi, High & Low – John Galliano will be shown on Sunday, February 25 at 7.30pm as part of Dublin International Film Festival, for more details visit; www.diff.ie. It will be released in cinemas from March 8.

Photographs throughout via Mubi, High & Low – John Galliano.


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