Women’s Wear Daily has published an extensive and very delicate interview with the formerly disgraced designer John Galliano, who has collected rave reviews for his fall ready-to-wear collection as the head of Maison Martin Margiela.
Interviewed by Bridget Foley, the longtime executive editor of WWD, Galliano was subjected to a fairly gentle range of questions that focused largely on his work and his addiction recovery. The designer’s infamous racist and anti-semitic outbursts in 2011— for which he was found guilty in French court, fired from Dior and his eponymous label, and largely (but only briefly) dropped by the fashion industry—were not directly mentioned at all during the interview (Foley refers to it in her intro as a “disastrous, drunken barroom incident that was as ugly as it was public”); Galliano did say that he is “still making amends” for his actions.
Galliano has addressed his comments before, however, notably in a 2013 Vanity Fair article: “I have been trying to find out why that anger was directed at this race. I now realize I was so fucking angry and so discontent with myself that I just said the most spiteful thing I could.” That one cannot necessarily “recover” from bigotry in a rehab facility (although Galliano has made attempts to reach out to the Jewish community) doesn’t seem to be a thing the fashion industry would like to dwell on, and Foley’s questioning didn’t lead to the kinds of stark realizations printed in Vanity Fair; it’s also very possible that the designer, now firmly back in a position of power and influence, is no longer willing to go there.
Here’s some of what was said:
Had you lost faith in humankind?
There were moments. There were dark moments where you don’t always understand, because you’re trying to understand yourself or forgive yourself or trying to understand what happened. Dealing with a lot of things, I’ve learned this concept of step-by-step, day-by-day. I didn’t understand the day-by-day thing. I’ve been so tied up with the future and what I’ve done yesterday. You’re not living anymore; you’re not in the moment. Now, I really do appreciate the moment and being in the moment. That’s not to say sometimes I don’t go off in my head, because we all do. But I’m much more aware of that now. And I’ve been given the tools; I know how to deal with it. Just being able to learn that at this time in my life is amazing.
Galliano’s main assertion, throughout the interview, is that the treatment he sought and the work he did on himself have allowed him to be more “present,” and that the person he was in 2011 is very different than the person he is today. Their conversation mostly served to contextualize Galliano’s recovery from addiction in the limited terms of his evolution as a designer:
Do you miss drinking?
I’m somewhere else now; I don’t need that. But I won’t say the desire or temptation ever goes away. It’s a disease. The minute I thought that it would go away, I’d be in trouble. I’d have to run to a meeting. It’s that daily [process], it’s a daily reprieve.
What is your day-by-day approach?
Just being connected and present. Often I wasn’t present. I was consumed by guilt and worry and so many things.
Guilt about what?
That was more having to do with my upbringing or [concern about] the future. A lot of those things would take up a lot of my time, and I lost a lot of time to be in the present, which is where I am today. I’m superhappy, and I’m grateful for everyone that helped me get to this point. It’s hard work.
You said that for a long time, you couldn’t take pencil to paper but now you can. How does the work impact the recovery?
It’s a very important question. Because it took me over.
What took you over?
The creative side. And of course, I started missing my meetings. I was working here until midnight and people close to me noticed. “John, what’s going on?” And I started lying and saying, “I left at 9 last night.” Then I said, “This is in my agenda. Seven o’clock on Tuesday I’m out of here because I have to go to my meeting and I can’t let this thing, I can’t think of the right word — never again will my work become more important than my health.” That’s where I’m coming from; work was everything and my health was falling apart.
Again, it’s a daily thing. I get carried away like we all do in the creative process and suddenly that’s more consuming — that’s the word I’m looking for. And I can step back and say, “This can wait until tomorrow. The world is not going to burn if I walk away from this fitting now.” It’s a balance.
When asked to describe his “biggest character flaws,” Galliano’s answer was, unfortunately, this:
I jump to conclusions, I can be irritable. Sometimes it’s very simple; I haven’t eaten. I can be impatient, I put a lot of pressure on myself.
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Image via Getty.