LARGER THAN LIFE
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.