March 1, 2011 / 8:26 PM / 7 years ago

Outrage propelled Galliano's rise and fall

<p>British designer John Galliano appears at the end of his Fall/Winter 2010/11 women's ready-to-wear fashion show for French fashion house Dior during Paris Fashion Week on March 5, 2010. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>

PARIS (Reuters) - 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 eventually destroyed his career there. Dior fired Galliano as its creative director on Tuesday, citing alleged anti-Semitic remarks he made in a drunken outburst at a bar near his Paris home.

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.

It was unclear whether his show for Dior would go ahead on Friday with the star designer, who denies any misconduct, awaiting the outcome of a police inquiry into his outburst last week.

Yet the saga has already cast a shadow over one of the most head-turning design careers of recent decades.

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 St. Martin’s College of Art and Design, graduating with first class honors. His first show, “Les Incroyables,” was inspired by the French Revolution.

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With his sense of visual impact, Galliano soon reaped critics’ 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 theater 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 most well-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 behavior grew more frequent until his alleged outburst last Thursday and the online circulation on Monday of a video clip that appeared to show 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 on Tuesday saying she wanted nothing more to do with him.

Friends in the fashion world were 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.”

“I know that you are not at all a racist -- whatever you said, drunk or not, to them!”

Editing by Catherine Bremer and Mark Trevelyan.

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