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John Galliano still can’t explain his 2011 antisemitic rant

John Galliano set trends in fashion — and cancel culture. 

The once A-list designer sprung to fame in the 1980s with his eponymous line that earned him fans including Rihanna, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Kate Moss and Natalie Portman, along with stints at Givenchy and Dior. But he was blacklisted in 2011 after he was caught on video making racist and antisemitic remarks, including praising Hitler at a Paris bar.

His exile and gradual return is examined in the new documentary “High & Low: John Galliano,” in theaters now, by Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald. 

Filmmaker Kevin Macdonald said persuading people to talk about Galliano for the film was difficult, but supermodel Kate Moss didn’t hesitate. Richard Young/Shutterstock
Charlize Theron, who has worn a number of vintage Dior Haute Couture gowns by John Galliano and custom Galliano looks over the years, also appears in the documentary. Gregory Pace/BEI/Shutterstock

“When I saw him say this stuff in 2011, I was totally repulsed … That to me was when I started thinking about cancel culture. It started from the point of view of, I don’t like what you are, but I’m interested to find out who you are, why you would say that and how this came about,” Macdonald, who is a descendant of Holocaust survivors, told The Post. 

“My way into this was, when you do something terrible, how do you ever get forgiven?” 

In the video in question, an admittedly drunken Galliano is asked by a woman off camera, “Are you blond, with blue eyes?”

“No, but I love Hitler, and people like you would be dead today,” the designer is seen saying. “Your mothers, your forefathers, would be f–king gassed and f–king dead.”

Dior, which had employed him to great acclaim since 1996, axed Galliano in February of 2011, days before the house’s runway show. By September of that year, he was convicted in France of “public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity” and issued a suspended fine.

Macdonald digs into the designer’s closeted, abusive upbringing and how fashion became his escape. ©Arrow Releasing/Courtesy Everett Collection

After the explosive hate speech, Galliano sought addiction treatment in rehab and met with leaders in the Jewish community.

But the fashion world was willing to give him a second chance. Anna Wintour herself reportedly intervened to land him a design residency at Oscar de la Retna in 2013. But shortly after, Galliano sparked outrage again when he wore a long jacket, hat and curled sidelocks resembling the “peyos” hairstyle worn by Hasidic men to attend de la Renta’s New York Fashion Week show.

“He’s trying to embarrass people in the Jewish community and make money on clothes [while] dressed like people he has insulted,” Williamsburg community leader Isaac Abraham told The Post at the time. “It looks like the hairstyle he added was done purposely to insult.”

But today, Macdonald views the look as Galliano being eccentric.

Naomi Campbell, who walked in a number of the designer’s shows in the ’90s and early 2000s, also appears in the film. MUBI/ High & Low

“He’s a complicated guy. I don’t think it was in any way designed as an insult — but it could be read like that,” Macdonald told The Post. 

“I suspect — of course I can’t know this — that he was being educated by a rabbi in London and he was reading all these books about Jewish history. I think it went into his head and it came out,” Macdonald added of Galliano, who had reached out to the Jewish community in an act of atonement.

“I showed the film to a Hasidic Jew — a leader of the community — a few months ago and he was like, ‘It could be a compliment?’ It’s not a great look at the current time but … he’s his own worst enemy,” Macdonad told The Post. 

Galliano only vaguely responds to the 2013 criticism in the film, telling Macdonald: “There was a bit of a drama … it was a fashion look. We got out of New York as fast as possible.”

In 2013, Galliano sparked outrage again when he wore a long jacket, hat and curled sidelocks resembling the “peyos” hairstyle worn by Hasidic men to attend de la Renta’s New York Fashion Week show. rico
Galliano says in the documentary ‘I’m going to tell you everything”— but he doesn’t have all the answers. MUBI/ High & Low

The movie also digs into the designer’s turbulent upbringing, including hiding his homosexuality from his mother and physically abusive father. Fashion became Galliano’s escape when he went off to study at the London art school Central Saint Martins, where his French Revolution-inspired collection, Les Incroyables, was purchased by London’s Browns boutique.

With help from Wintour and the late Andre Leon Talley to find financing, Galliano debuted his first collection at Paris Fashion week in 1989. 

He was appointed head designer of Givenchy in 1995; by 1996, LVMH had tapped Galliano to head design at Dior, where he became known for his curve-capturing technique of cutting fabric on the bias, as well as a signature saddlebag that’s now having a major resurgence. In the film, Kate Moss recalls Galliano teaching her how to seduce the runway, recalling: “He said put your hips and your pelvis forwards.”

Anna Wintour was an early supporter of John Galliano, helping him find financial backing for his line in the 90s. MUBI/ High & Low

Galliano appears in the film, as do supporters and friends such as Naomi Campbell, Charlize Theron and Penelope Cruz, who all speak fondly of the designer.

Cruz says in the film: “I always saw this little kid in him. Very natural. Full of energy and passion.”

In his early days coming up in Paris, Christy Turlington, Moss and Campbell modeled for Galliano for free, just to be in his orbit. 

“We wanted to be part of that magic,” Campbell recalls on screen.

The once flamboyant Galliano quietly took over as creative director for Maison Martin Margiela in 2014. MUBI/ High & Low

But not everyone was willing to be so candid, Macdonald said.

“Persuading people to talk to me about it was probably the most difficult thing. John talks very honestly, but some people are scared of being associated with him,” Macdonald said of making the film. “I was surprised that Dior agreed to be part of it. For many years, they kept his years at Dior at arm’s length. It wasn’t part of the history.” 

Sidney Toledano, the former CEO of Dior, who is Jewish and had staged two interventions for Galliano prior to him leaving Dior, theorizes in the film that the designer’s antisemitism could have been somehow rooted in his Catholic upbringing. Galliano’s silence on the matter after the video went viral, however, was a blow, Toledano says in the doc.

Galliano told Macdonald he wasn’t asking for forgiveness, but instead hoped to be “a little more understood.”  MUBI/ High & Low

“He didn’t apologize. You feel betrayed.”

Galliano told Macdonald he wasn’t asking for forgiveness, but instead hoped to be “a little more understood.” 

“It’s a film about fashion [and] it’s about him as a personality — but also why people say terrible insulting things and why the thing that people too often choose to say is something antisemitic,” Macdonald added of Galliano. “He allowed me to talk to his therapist. His addiction specialist. A very well-known holocaust survivor, a psychoanalyst who appears in the film … For people to be aware of that and to think about that, can only be a good thing when there are antisemitic tropes all over the place at the moment.”

Galliano says he has been sober for a decade and that he was “committing suicide slowly” via his addiction. MUBI/ High & Low

The fashion designer, who says he has now been sober for a decade, discusses his addiction in vivid detail in the film — blaming the overdose death of a close friend for sending him into a spiral of binge drinking and prescription drugs including Valium and amphetamines.

“I was committing suicide slowly,” Galliano says of his drug and alcohol fueled spiral in the documentary. “I just wanted to sleep forever.”

But the designer, who made a very quiet return as the creative director for Maison Martin Margiela in 2014, still isn’t able to answer why he acted the way he did.

“Right at the very end of interviewing [Galliano] — having talked to him over the course of about a year — I said to him, ‘After everything we’ve talked about, after everyone I’ve talked to, I just want to know finally from you, why did you say those things?’” Macdonald recalled. “And he said, ‘I don’t know. I honestly still don’t know.’ And I believe that.” 

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