British fashion designer John Galliano was born in Gibraltar on November 28, 1960. His Spanish mother and Gibraltarian father moved the family to South London when he was 6. The transition was difficult. His mother, a flamenco teacher, prided herself on the family’s appearance and would dress her son in elaborate outfits, even when toting him along on the simplest of errands. Despite being teased by his sloppily dressed schoolmates, Galliano’s mother instilled in him a bold and creative sensibility.
Galliano enrolled at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 1981. While in school, he worked as a dresser for Britain’s National Theatre, the eminent company in London, ensuring that the company’s thespians looked perfect. His graduating collection in 1984, inspired by the French Revolution and entitled “Les Incroyables,” was bought in its entirety by the independent London fashion boutique, Browns. Galliano soon established his own label and enjoyed the support of various financial backers. His collections were both dramatic and intricate, but within just a few years his elaborate visions were squashed by a lack of business prowess. He went bankrupt in 1990.
Galliano struggled financially for years, still producing work intermittently, until he met and gained the support of American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and Vogue’s creative director for the American edition, Andre Leon Talley. These high-powered connectors introduced him to the Portuguese fashion patron Saõ Schlumberger. To regain his footing, Schlumberger loaned him her house for a fashion show, and several top models worked for free. He designed the entire collection from one bolt of fabric. Schlumberger’s adoration brought several new financiers to the fore.
As a result, Galliano was appointed head designer of Givenchy in 1995, thus becoming the first British designer to head a French haute couture house. In two year’s time, he moved to Christian Dior.Galliano created some of the industry’s most famous collections, including the Blanche Dubois in October 2008 (inspired by the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire), the Napoleon and Josephine in March 1992 (inspired by the love story of these famous historic figures) and the Princess Lucretia in October 1993 (inspired by the Russian princess). Beyond the clothing donned by his models, Galliano is known for his own dramatic final-bow-costumes, finishing his shows wearing fantastical get-ups inspired by the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte and U.S. astronauts.Galliano was named British Designer of the Year in 1987, 1994 and 1997, and he was made a Chevalier in the French Legion of Honour in 2009, an award previously bestowed on fashion luminaries Yves Saint Laurent and Suzy Menkes.