JOHN GALLIANO: I went to a traditional art school--Saint Martins [College of Art & Design] in London. A hunger for Paris was instilled in me early on; Paris was definitely the place to go. Even when I was based in London, I made my pilgrimage with my sales team to Paris, because this is where most of the Italian, French, Japanese and American buyers were. And when I was based in London, as with many young, struggling designers, production was a great problem. Of course, commercially speaking, if I'd had some kind of link-up with Milan and a production backup, I would have gone there rather than to Paris. But I was still trying to set up my own business, so it made sense to come to Paris, where the big guys were. It was difficult. When I say we had no money I mean when we had the flu we'd have to rustle up enough money to buy a pepper and some bread so we'd sweat. But our belief in fashion made us go through with it.
IS: Tell us how you went from starving young designer to where you are now. Start with having left London after that groundbreaking show you did in Paris, updating the obi theme for your own line. After a lot of struggle and help, your business was set up in the Bastille in the early '90s and--
JG: Well, the most amazing thing happened! These fantastic society ladies came traipsing down to the Bastille and ordering these bias-cut dresses and things, so I think it got to be known in Paris that John was not only dressing young, funky people, but haute couture ladies were also coming to see him. I think that rang a few bells.
What did you think when all this started happening, John?
JG: [laughs] Even today, I have to pinch myself before I go into Dior. [laughs] In retrospect, I realize my tenure at Givenchy was maybe a trial thing to see how I performed--if the clothes came up to scratch, if they were delivered on time, if they were beautifully made and everything. And then the big call came, when I was summoned to see Mr. Arnault. I thought I'd done something horribly wrong, or said something terrible. I mean, it was Friday, 5:00 P.M. No one gets called to a meeting on a Friday at 5:00 P.M. in Paris, because they're all pissing off to the country! So I thought, "Shit, what have I done? This must be serious!" And then this car was sent for me, which was a little spooky, because it had dark windows.
IS: And now when you're working, let's say, in one of the back rooms at Dior--
JG: --Which back room, sweetie? [both laugh] Do you mean the atelier? You've got to remember that I'd never really worked for anyone before, and certainly never worked within the structures of a grand house like Givenchy or Dior. One day I was scrambling around in the Bastille, the next day I was in this building with guys in white lab coats looking like scientists.
IS: Can you remember the first images you ever had of Paris?
JG: I think it was paintings by Ingres as well as earlier historical drawings and cartoons of les merveilleuses and incroyables, French revolutionaries charging down cobblestones and roads and smoke in the air. Those images inspired my college collection at Saint Martins in London. That was the Paris that I knew in my heart before living here. I had a very romantic vision of it. And I loved that sense of danger that you get in Paris, too--that slight avant-garde that smells of danger.
^ John Galliano Spring 2010 ^
via Madley Blog