John Galliano's year of magic

by Camilla Morton, March 2008 (United States)

No one translates fantasy to fashion like Christian Dior’s creative director Paris, and it’s raining. Tucked in a photo studio in the city’s 14th arrondissement is Christian Dior’s creative director, John Galliano, the man behind one of spring’s most lauded collections. He’s here today to be photographed by the man who in fact helped inspire said collection: Peter Lindbergh. «We were inspired by many different icons and muses of Mr. Dior, but I wanted to see them through the eyes of Peter Lindbergh, with that cinematic, grainy quality. I just find that sexy,» explains Galliano. « Peter’s images were really the starting point for my inspiration. It’s amazing to see him shooting Carmen today.» Carmen, of course, is Carmen Kass, who is currently having her hair spun into a cotton-candy confection by Odile Gilbert. Lindbergh’s photo assistants are popping lights as they are tested one last time. «You can’t rush soufflés or perfection,» says Galliano with a mischievous wink as Kass finally slithers onto the set, a fox stole trailing behind her. «She’s like something from another era, yet at the same time she looks so modern, so now,» he says approvingly. Galliano lights up a cigarette — although Paris is in the grips of a smoking ban — and with the jazz music softly rippling through the room, Lindbergh in position behind his huge camera, the forbidden curl of smoke is the perfect prop. >«Peter is a legend. He has also been there at every pivotal moment in my career.» John Galliano «Peter,» says Galliano, «is a legend. He has also been there at every pivotal moment in my career.» The two were introduced in 1987. «I had just won British Designer of the Year,» Galliano, now 47, recounts. «I’d shown my collection in London where models came out as beekeepers, with beehives balanced on their heads. It wasn’t long after I graduated. I was just starting, totally broke, and suddenly here was Liz Tilberis [a former editor in chief of Bazaar who was then the editor of British Vogue] flying me over to Paris to have my picture taken by Lindbergh, with Christy Turlington modeling my collection! Who gets a start like that?» In 1996, when Galliano was made creative director at Christian Dior, the person he commissioned to shoot his portrait was Lindbergh. Galliano is fabled for his research trips, and his clothes tell the story of his muses and adventures. «For me, travel is the most powerful source of ideas.» He goes to all corners of the globe to mine the cultures for inspiration and then transforms his findings into designs that defy expectations. «I’m like a pirate. I love to travel; it’s what inspires me,» he says. «Creativity has no nationality, so I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. I love understanding and seeing different cultures. At Christmas, I hung out with a Maasai tribe, and I sang, danced, and drank with them. It was the most amazing experience. I wasn’t ‘John Galliano the fashion designer.’ I was just their new friend. There were lions, tigers, and giraffes. We held hands, we danced, and I didn’t know what the real world was anymore. It was very humbling, honest, and pure.» For this season, he had to only flick through his extensive Lindbergh photographic archive to find the mood for his collection. «For the spring show, there were a lot of iconic references: Hollywood, supermodels, and all that jazz. It’s a seductive girl-boy silhouette, tailored rather sharply. It’s garçon, not quite man, and very feminine,» he explains. «Peter is so perfect; he gets the mood, the style. He created it, for heaven’s sake! He made the supermodels super with his black-and-white images of Cindy [Crawford] and Naomi [Campbell]. They define an era, a woman. That was who mesmerized my imagination this season.» Galliano’s muse is ever changing, but for Dior this spring, she’s part Lindbergh and part Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Billie Holiday after dark. [...]