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Date & time Aug 13 '17
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how the king of fashion lost his crown

Wickenberg, 60 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona, is a desert town in more ways than just geography. There aren't many people in this corner of America's scrubbiest state; it's home to fewer than 10,000. The streets are empty by 9pm in winter, and not just because temperatures dip to freezing. There's no action on Main Street to tempt anybody out. As the disgraced fashion designer settles into his new home, The Meadows, a rehabilitation centre on the outskirts of town recommended to him by Kate Moss, the grainy video of his drunken, career trashing tirade 'I love Hitler. People like you. would all be f gassed', he raged in a bar in a Jewish district of Paris is still attracting millions of views on the internet. Not that he will see any of it. One of the rules of The Meadows is that communication with the outside world is limited to the odd telephone call.

For this most theatrical of modern designers, desert exile is the final act in a drama so extreme that even he must scarcely believe it. Sure, fashion folk have got into trouble before, as Moss herself knows better than anyone. But never before has one who flew so high been brought so low, so fast, and by his own hand.

Galliano destroyed his career, reputation and future in a dozen blurred, slurred words. Not only are his days as Dior's chief designer finished, but his own label is suddenly worthless. No one wants to wear 'a Nazi'. According to sources at the brand's owner, LVMH, the French luxury goods giant controlled by Bernard Arnault (the fourth richest man in the world, with $41 billion), when the last of Galliano's current collection has been snapped up, his label will be axed and the stores shuttered.

The big fashion groups, LVMH and PPR, which owns Gucci, won't employ Galliano again. 'He's toxic,' says the owner of one leading European brand. Nor will he return to haute couture. His friend Kate Moss is rumoured to have abandoned plans to wear a bespoke Galliano dress when she marries Jamie Hince this summer. The only place Galliano's name will appear, it seems, is in court. It is a crime in France to incite racial hatred. Galliano will be tried later this year; if convicted, he faces six months in prison and up to 20,000 in fines.

What drove the buccaneer with the bandanna and the pencil moustache over the edge? 'Everybody knew John had a problem and that it had been getting worse for more than a year but no one did anything about it,' says one London based friend who partied with him in the days when he was a regular at Taboo, the Leicester Square club night hosted by performance artist Leigh Bowery. 'John drank too much and his behaviour was erratic. LVMH has libraries of reports of John getting pissed and doing and saying outrageous and offensive things in public.'

An LVMH source says Dior boss Sidney Toledano did urge Galliano to seek help; he also instructed Galliano's driver, provided by the firm, to act as a minder, but it was a half hearted effort. Certainly, there was no sign of the chauffeur when Galliano launched his tirade against two fellow patrons at La Perle, a bar close to his home in Le Marais, three weeks ago, calling them, they claim, a 'dirty Jew face' and a 'f Asian bastard'. Nor was anyone there to stop him making the anti Semitic comments that turned up in a mobile phone camera video. That particular rant occurred last October. The more the video is viewed, the more replica Bulgari zero 1 ring gold questions are being asked. Why did it take so long for the video to emerge? Who are the two girls who made it and why do they seem to be egging Galliano on to make replica bvlgari ring b.zero1 ever more extreme comments? Some even go so far as to suggest that the video was part of an elaborate ruse to help force the designer's departure, a notion dismissed by an LVMH source as 'lurid fantasy'.

Whatever the truth, one thing is certain. Galliano was under pressure. It was not just the booze, it was the bucks, or rather the lack thereof. His eponymous label was not selling. A senior executive at one of London's leading department stores reveals: 'Even before John Galliano said what imitation bvlgari B.zero1 ring Design he said, sales of his own label were pretty much zero.' There were mutterings, too, in Paris, to the effect that Galliano's decorative aesthetic was out of keeping with an age of austerity and that Dior sales were falling. His outr personal style was certainly out of step with an increasingly business minded fashion world dominated by vast, listed conglomerates, such as LVMH, which got even bigger earlier this month when it acquired Bulgari.

John Galliano never expected to become the head of a 16 billion brand like Dior but, as he rose to the top of Mount Fashion, he always insisted his lowly upbringing would keep him grounded. 'You never forget how hard your parents struggled, how much they sacrificed,' he is fond of saying.

Juan Carlos Antonio Galliano Guilln, the son of a British plumber and a Spanish mother, was born in Gibraltar on 28 November 1960, and moved with his two sisters to Streatham, South London, aged six. The Victorian terraced home is still there. Brought up in a devout Roman Catholic family, he loved the religious vestments that went with his duties as an altar boy. His mother, who taught him flamenco dancing, imparted a Latin love of dressing up. 'John used to turn up to school events in a white suit with rosary beads and gold chains and all the girls wanted to take his picture,' recalls one former classmate. 'John thought it was normal.'

By the time he went to Wilson's School for boys in Camberwell, he knew he was different and so did everyone else. He was bullied, beaten up. 'Children can be very cruel,' he once recalled. 'I retreated into a dream world.' It wasn't until he went to Central Saint Martins School of Art that he felt comfortable in his own skin, and comfortable coming out as gay, although he told only his mother: 'It was all very complicated and Latin between me and my father,' he was later to reflect. When his father Juan died just days before his summer 2002 Paris show, Galliano flew to Gibraltar to bury him and returned the next day to finish his work without telling any of his team.

It was at Saint Martins that his love of excess emerged. He, DJ Jeremy Healy and singer Boy George became close, working by day and partying by night. 'He was wild. He used to go out for the night and disappear for days on end,' says a former party pal. 'There was everything going on, not just drugs and sex; I mean, stuff I shouldn't mention really. To him it was all about adrenaline. Every wild night, every collection he designed, it was a pure shot of adrenaline.'

On graduation from Saint Martins in 1984, his talent was spotted by Joan Burstein, owner of London boutique Browns, and he was championed by Anna Wintour, now editor of American Vogue. Early shows featured a model with a tree on her head, waving a mackerel. But it was Arnault who gave him his big break, luring him to Paris to join Givenchy in 1995. The first Briton to head up a French couture house soon became the first Briton to head two French couture houses when he joined Dior a year later. He was soon producing headline making collections. One show, inspired by tramps, with models in torn newsprint chiffon dresses and rope belts dangling with tin cups (very Zoo lander), was condemned as insensitive to the homeless, cementing his role as fashion's most risqu designer. He soon attracted big name fans, notably Carla Bruni, now the first lady of France, and Nicole Kidman, one of only two actresses to wear Dior couture to this year's Oscars, days after news broke of Galliano's anti Semitic rant.

In Paris he gave up drink and drugs and discovered new obsessions, notably body dysmorphia. He ran and cycled daily along the Seine, did hundreds of sit ups, took up boxing and carefully calibrated his carbohydrate and protein intake, although his appetite for nicotine remained undiminished. His obsession with his looks soon extended to cosmetic pro cedures, mainly Botox imitation Bulgari B.zero1 series of jewelry and fillers, his friends say. He was not happy at the prospect of getting old but he was still fted as a fashion genius, and, thanks to him, Dior was hot both among the likes of Bruni and 'J'adore Dior' T shirt wearing youngsters.

In spite of his rotating addictions, friends say Galliano succeeded because, like most designers, his creativity was offset by a business minded right hand man. His old friend from London Steven Robinson was, according to Galliano himself, 'the glue that kept all the magic together'. It was after Robinson's death in 2007, from what many suspect was a drug induced heart attack, that the rot set in. Olivier Wicker, editor of French fashion and arts magazine Next, says Galliano felt Robinson's loss acutely and began to retreat into an ever decreasing circle of friends. 'He was locked in an infernal spiral of depression.'

The designer certainly cut an increasingly isolated figure in the run up to what was to be his final catwalk show. Fashion editors complained they did not get to see him any more. Even Toledano himself rarely spoke to his star designer, communicating through inter mediaries. He was regularly spotted drinking alone. To make matters worse, friends of Galliano, including Healy, say the designer was exhausted. Fashion designers work harder than ever these days. Gone are the years when creative directors came up with two main collections a year; now they play a role in every part of the fashion business.

The pressures are enormous, says Mary Adair Macaire, who until recently ran Pringle and before that was global marketing director at Chanel. 'It's not just the constant creative process of designing six, even eight, collections a year. The top designers also oversee advertising, store design, special events and merchandising. Not to mention constant requests for press interviews, appearances at special events, special promotional product design and social networking. While the pressure of the job does not in any way excuse bad behaviour, it is nevertheless daunting.' Galliano himself hinted at the strain when he said recently: 'You'd faint if you saw my agenda; I'm booked up until 2013.'

Behind all the chatter, another question looms, perhaps the most important of all. Why did Galliano not save himself? After initial reports of his public rant, he could have thrown himself on his bosses' mercy or they could have insisted he do so. He could have confessed to suffering a nervous breakdown and been packed off on an all expenses trip to rehab. He wouldn't be the first. Marc Jacobs, design director of Louis Vuitton, ended a wild streak in recovery before re emerging triumphant.

But he didn't. He stayed in his fortified home in Paris with his boyfriend of nearly a decade, Alexis Roche (a former hairdresser and now 'VIP style consultant' at Dior), issued a denial and refused to talk to his bosses. His bosses did not talk to him either, which, observers say, reveals the depth of the divisions between the two sides. By the time the police announced they wanted to question Galliano and the video emerged, it was too late. Did he really think he could tough it out when there were so many witnesses and when he'd done the same thing at least once, maybe many times, before? Or did he simply want out of the modern fashion circus? Did his bosses not reach out because they wanted rid of him anyway?

As he looks out across the high Arizona desert, punctuated by giant cacti that resemble outsized exclamation marks, Galliano will have plenty of time to think about what went wrong and wonder how the fashion world will remember him. The leading photographer Patrick Demarchelier says: 'He is a gorgeous designer. To finish like this? Phew!'

'Phew!' was probably the last epithet Galliano was hoping for. He has always told his friends that he wanted to be remembered 'as a Romantic'. Sadly, for him and for fashion, he will be remembered as an obsessive who took everything too far. As he himself once said: 'Whatever I do, I like to do it until it can't be done any more.' Now, it can't.

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