LARGER THAN LIFE

VOGUE Australia - - Contents -

John Gal­liano’s colos­sal col­lec­tions have been cap­tured in a book by photographer Robert Fairer.

IJohn Gal­liano’s colos­sal col­lec­tions – both in grandeur and in sheer cre­ativ­ity – have been cap­tured in a new book by one of the few peo­ple to be privy to his other-worldly in­ner sanc­tum. Photographer Robert Fairer shares mem­o­ries of those trea­sured glimpses with Vogue. first went to the wom­enswear shows in Paris in the mid-80s with my wife and col­lab­o­ra­tor Vanessa, who worked in the fash­ion busi­ness as a buyer. I en­coun­tered the great de­sign­ers, such as Issey Miyake, Jean Paul Gaultier, Azze­dine Alaïa, Vivi­enne West­wood. How­ever, a decade later, in the case of Alexan­der McQueen and John Gal­liano, the shows I were wit­ness­ing as I worked my­self as a fledg­ling photographer be­came far more au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal and more re­bel­lious, every de­tail thought out: the sound had to match the vi­sion, the girls trans­formed, sub­merged into their de­fin­i­tive char­ac­ters in a far more ex­treme way. There was noth­ing to com­pare it to then or now.

“With a John Gal­liano show, there is al­ways a fan­tas­tic ner­vous en­ergy, very buzzy. Loud vibey mu­sic fills the space back­stage, where there are tens of hair dry­ers blow­ing and usu­ally what seems like over a hun­dred peo­ple packed in work­ing and talk­ing over clothes rails be­hind mir­rors as they get the girls coiffed, made-up and dressed for the run­way.

“The teams of hair and make-up are cre­at­ing new faces and hair­styles that will not only set a new trend but are also there to defy the fash­ion ed­i­tors’ imag­i­na­tions; this in it­self a chal­lenge few un­der­take. Con­cen­tra­tion and high pres­sure just add to the an­tic­i­pa­tion and the knowl­edge that it is ‘now or never’ for me to cap­ture the dress, the model, the look as the mod­els run on and off the run­way. Post-show, ev­ery­one is very happy and ex­cited at the suc­cess and im­mense ap­plause out­side that is seen on the tele­vi­sion screens be­hind the cur­tains as we watch John take his bow. It’s a party with mu­sic and danc­ing.

“Over the years I was in­volved in more per­sonal shoots, pri­vate fit­tings with my Vogue ed­i­tors, ac­com­pa­ny­ing them into ex­tremely rar­efied en­vi­ron­ments, John at his most po­tent, al­ways very con­fi­dent and re­laxed.

“All the mod­els adore John, be­cause he loves women and thrives on beauty and cre­ation … the ex­ag­ger­a­tions of a woman’s body with his cut and ex­quis­ite ma­te­ri­als. In the early years, a Gal­liano dress em­pow­ered you in the most sexy and fem­i­nine way. Every model wanted to wear Gal­liano. It’s a fan­tasy!

“[For] au­tumn/win­ter ’04/’05 Erin O’Con­nor is seen in pro­file wedged into the freight lift. Those ‘frigate’ dresses, to quote An­dré Leon Tal­ley, were so fab­u­lously over the top and fan­tas­tic. Get­ting the girls into the lift and watch­ing them move around was in­spir­ing – all a fairly ma­jor feat. The size and weight of the cloth­ing and the model height re­quired to carry off th­ese dresses, com­bined with wear­ing wigs and hats … over­whelm­ing. There is some im­agery in this col­lec­tion that il­lus­trates the hoops un­der the skirts and of­fers an idea of the enor­mous­ness of them and the com­plex­ity of ac­tu­ally get­ting dressed.

“My fi­nal full sea­son was spring/sum­mer ’10, the sea­son we lost Lee Alexan­der McQueen. Fash­ion en­tered a new phase with the ad­vent of the dig­i­tal cam­era, mo­bile phones and so­cial me­dia. What was a rel­a­tively elite af­fair, be­hind the scenes, has now been blown wide open by the de­mand for im­me­di­ate con­tent.

“I think [Gal­liano] has al­ways ex­em­pli­fied the say­ing ‘more is al­ways more’ in terms of sex­i­ness, silk, cut and fash­ion theatre. He re­jects the fast-fash­ion ethos, be­cause his cre­ations evolve into what you want them to be and how you wish to wear them on any given day. Gal­liano keeps on break­ing the rules, de­spite his un­be­liev­able ca­reer peaks and troughs to date. I have no doubt the best is yet to come.” John Gal­liano: Un­seen by Robert Fairer (Thames & Hud­son, $78) is avail­able now.

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