John Galliano on Dior, Fashion and Style

The designer addresses the renovated Dior flagship and his own creative process.

WWD: The name stays, but the collection has changed.

J.G.: It’s a great piece, a great jacket, a great trouser, that you can just throw into your existing wardrobe, whether it’s Dior or not, and just gives it that lift like red lipstick or a pair of bitch heels. It’s great. It stands on it’s own, that collection. It’s treated with the same reverence as any of the collections I work on, ready-to-wear, haute couture. The process is the same. I still do my research. I come back. I put it all together in a book. I’m inspired by a muse.

WWD: I like your use of the word reverence. You really do revere fashion.

J.G.: Oh, I do. I love the business and I’m very fortunate to be in this fantastic business. I’m very lucky to have worked with the greats, whether it’s photographers or artists or actors. I’ve been very lucky to work with the greats at Dior.

WWD: How do you feed off of other people’s creativity?

J.G.: It depends on what the situation is. I love working with actresses. I love their creative process. It’s a bit like brainstorming. Working with Charlize [Theron for J’adore Dior Parfum] was a scream. I mean, she ends up directing the whole thing. And she’s right; she knows what she’s doing. She’ll remember exactly which way she sat, where her butt was, her nails. I mean it’s just fabulous. I love the creative process. What they bring creatively is really important.

WWD: Any other such collaborations, whether a photographer…

J.G.: Kate [Moss].

WWD: You go way back with Kate.

J.G.: I’ve known her since she was 14. She threw a fantastic surprise birthday for me. You shouldn’t write that. But it was so genius I have to tell you. I was going to have a birthday party in Paris.

WWD: When?

J.G.: It was last week. I’m like all the old actresses who have an official birthday and an unofficial birthday. This was my unofficial one. I started to organize it with a friend in Paris but it got all out of hand. It was going to turn very corporate, so I said, “Uh-uh-uh.” It’s just not the birthday you want to start bragging about. The big 4-0. [He exaggerates the number, to indicate that he has shaved off a few years.] So I said, “OK, we’ll move it to London.” I said, “I just want to do something quiet. Could we just go under the radar? Maybe to someone’s house?” Anyway, Kate and my friend Francesca [Cutler] arranged it, a surprise. We went to the new bar that just opened at the Savoy. It’s very Deco, very beautiful. I arrive and there were fantastic creatures there that I hadn’t seen for like twenty years, the London posse. And then they introduce the acts. David Bowie had come over to perform for me followed by Diana Ross followed by Tina Turner and then Barbra Streisand.

WWD: Oh stop!

J.G.: No, you stop! And then the last person who came on was Michael Jackson! They were all impersonators! It was so English and so tawdry! It was fantastic!

WWD: We can’t put this in the story?

J.G.: Of course you can. — it’s a true story! So I go outside for a cigarette with Kate, OK? She has this little jumpsuit on with little sequins. She looked gorgeous. Some dirty old man walks by and goes, “Oh, you do that really well. You could be a model.” She goes, “F--- off! I’m too short!” Then this limousine turns up, this shiny limousine and this fantastic, chic woman gets out with the shades on and the bodyguards. Me and Kate look each other and we’re like, “Oh!” You don’t do that in London. Unless you’re Elvis Presley, you don’t do that. So this wonderful creature comes up to me, takes the glasses off and goes, “John!” And I go, “Hi…” I still didn’t quite know what was going on. She goes, “It’s Isabelle.” It was Isabelle Huppert, one of France’s greatest actresses, who had been giving a press conference and just turned up. So she goes, “What are you doing here?” and I said, “Oh we’re just having a little party celebrating my 40th. Would you like to join us?” And I’m like, “Shit, how do I get out of this one?” “Lexie, Lexie, it’s Isabelle! You’ve got to look after her.” She had the best time because I kept asking her if she was OK and she would say, “Laissez-moi! Laissez-moi! C’est une scene que ne j’ai jamais vue!” [“Let me be! Let me be! It’s a scene I’ve never seen before!”] Because the English posse were really going for it that night. She loved it. There were these kids who were break dancing to Michael who were twins. [Galliano extends an arm to approximate their height — perhaps that of an average eight-year-old.] One’s blonde, one’s brunette. They were break dancing, diving. But there was like a time lapse of something like six seconds. Twins do that apparently. It was the most weird thing to see. It was incredible.

WWD: From a big birthday party to a big store party, for the renovation.

J.G.: It was 11 years ago that it was first opened, with a party in The Magic Room [the event space at Dior headquarters]. And we put mirrors on the floors so we could all see up everyone’s skirts.

WWD: How important is this renovation?

J.G.: It’s very important. It’s a very important market. Everyone’s been giving a lot of their attention for it to work really well, to serve our clients, their needs.

WWD: How is the U.S. market for Dior?

J.G.: It’s going to be doing better after this launch.

WWD: And after the launch, what’s going on?

J.G.: God, everything’s going on. I’m working on pre-collection Galliano, pre-collection Dior, the men’s wear, as I mentioned, and haute couture. You know how November is, with lots of parties. Also because it was my 40th, there was cake and Champagne and back at Dior there was more cake and more Champagne. I’ve never seen more bottles of Champagne. I mean, I don’t drink but so many cakes! It was outrageous. But November is like that. It gets very festive.

WWD: At the store on Wednesday, Natalie Portman has a role.

J.G.: Yes, she’s the new face of Miss Dior Cherie.

WWD: Have you spent time with her?

J.G.: A little. I mean she’s a beautiful girl, beautiful face.

WWD: Have you seen “Black Swan”?

J.G.: I want to go see it. I’ve heard it’s really genius. It’s all about dance, isn’t it?

WWD: Yes, a psychological thriller. The emotion of the art kind of sends her over the edge.

J.G.: Oh, that sounds familiar.

WWD: What do you look for in casting a celebrity?

J.G.: It depends on the product. It’s a creative process that I love, whether it’s working with Kate Moss, Sharon Stone, Charlize Theron or Natalie. We’ve had a fun time with Marion Cotillard doing some internet films. The last one, “The Grey Lady,” was in London. It was by John Cameron Mitchell. It was a real trip — with Sir Ian McKellen! [It makes its debut on today.] He’s in a wheelchair and she has these supernatural powers. She seduces him and because of her love he’s able to walk. I cried when he got up. Everyone was crying. We all were in tears. We shot in SE4 [a rough section of southeast London] in a ballroom with a Chinese lantern and a ceiling with linoleum — kind of tacky but kind of charming at the same time. [The proprietor] said, “You from around here? I can tell from your voice.” And I was like “Yeah, But not SE4. I grew up in SE22,” which is even rougher. I asked, “What happens here now?” Because I couldn’t imagine SE4 people coming in here now and doing waltzes. So he goes, “Well we get a lot of gay people coming here now.” I said, “Oh, yeah? What do they do?” He said, “They dance.” I said I want to have a party here.

WWD: You dance. But do you tweet?

J.G.: No, I get people to do it for me. When I was here last, I was only here for four or five days and there were 30,000 calls or whatever you call them.

WWD: Tweets.

J.G.: Yeah, there were 30,000. They had nothing to do with Dior, nothing to do with [the company] John Galliano. Just what I look like when I leave the hotel, or people had seen me in a restaurant or going to the gym. Thirty thousand! That’s a lot. I could advertise on that site. I think we need to exploit that, don’t you?

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