“I’d clean out Vivienne Westwood in my Galliano gown,” she sung, as her arms held on anxiously to a swinging anchor. I was eleven years old when Gwen Stefani released “Rich Girl,” a catchy, gloriously choreographed video with lyrics written in the counterfactual conditional. Stefani, of course, had just embarked on what would become a hugely successful solo career. The irony flew straight over my head: her hypothetical penury, her culturally appropriative art direction, becoming clear only in hindsight. This was my first introduction to Galliano, and by extension, Dior. I spent the next few years researching and trying to make sense of this couturier, whose tinged, stately accent and flared moustache became its own caricature. And these weren’t exactly fun days for me—there was a lot of self-policing and self-preservation, as any boy who likes other boys would know. Galliano, to me, was the most magnificent, charismatic man in the world. Shameless about it, too.
Perhaps too shameless about it. His flamboyant flair wasn’t limited to the theatre of his runway presentations; theatre built itself around him. Prestige was mistook for promise… and mixed with alcohol, sleeping pills and stress—which Galliano claims contributed to his downward spiral—anti-Semitic vitriol was recorded on camera. Not just offensive, but cause for criminal conviction in France. Galliano’s departure from Dior has been well documented. No summary, and certainly no apologies, will be offered here. But since then, Galliano has undergone drug and alcohol rehabilitation; extended formal apologies to, and received welcome from, the Anti-Defamation League; as well as a brief residency at Oscar de la Renta’s studio. Earlier this year, Galliano became creative director of Russian perfume retailer L’Etoile.