Text by Francesca Fontanesi

Through a series of exclusive interviews, Kevin Macdonald sheds new light on the creative genius of John Galliano, from his prodigious student days at Central St. Martins in London to his tenure at Dior, culminating in the 2011 incident. A kaleidoscopic portrait of one of the greatest cultural icons of the 2000s.

Known as one of the most influential and charismatic designers of our time, John Galliano has dressed men and women around the world for almost 15 years at Givenchy and Dior. Galliano reinvented the codes of the fashion industry by transforming his runway shows into immersive fantasy experiences, and helped turn what was once an elitist industry into a global business. In 2011, Galliano’s career abruptly ended after the spread of videos in which he made antisemitic insults in a Parisian bar. In High&Low: John Galliano, Kevin Macdonald investigates the many facets and contradictions of a character like Galliano and the context, including decades of social pressure and drug addiction, that surrounded his downfall and redemption. Through interviews with friends and family, and directly with John Galliano himself speaking to the camera, Macdonald portrays in his new documentary the vulnerability of the man behind the public genius and his search for redemption.

“I don’t have a particular interest in fashion but was interested in Galliano as a character and his role in the transformation of the industry from the late 90’s to early 2010’s. We were lucky to have access to a huge trove of archive material from his days at LVMH and it was extraordinary to see John’s shy, diffident manner transform over the years”.

– Kevin Macdonald

In 1982, Galliano is a student attending Central St.Martins in London to study fashion design. He arrives in the Streatham neighborhood directly from Gibraltar, his parents still reeling from his homosexuality. He manages to earn some extra income by working as an assistant to Savile Row tailor Tommy Nutter, a fashion designer for Mick Jagger, the Beatles, and Sir Elton John. Around the same time – during the early Eighties – Galliano discovers the world of clubbing. As he himself declared, Soho at the time meant men in beige raincoats, red-light districts, ring the bell and go up. There was a mix of clientele with the theatrical public and some great clubs. The Beat Route, Taboo, the Wag. Galliano’s early fashion shows particularly reflect that sense of theatricality, anarchy, and hedonism typical of these places: following the success of his early collections, he receives financial support from Peder Bertelsen, hires a personal team, and in 1989 performs for the first time in Paris – just as Bertelsen decides to withdraw his support. On the brink of failure, Galliano still decides to move to the French capital and stay with some friends. In 1993, Anna Wintour arranges a meeting with John Bult (of the Paine Webber banking group) and convinces Saõ Schlumberger to lend Galliano her personal villa for a fashion show. He reaches the height of success. As the chief designer of the French haute couture flagship, Christian Dior, Galliano creates over a dozen Dior collections a year, including skiwear, lingerie, golfwear, jewelry and accessories, as well as prêt-à-porter and Haute Couture collections. In 2004, he presents a collection of menswear, and footage of his early shows is sublime: he teaches Kate Moss to walk with her shoulders back and pelvis thrust forward, so that the dress almost slips off her body. It’s the 2000s and Galliano’s fashion explodes, John becomes a giant of pop culture, and he is overwhelmed by his own depths.

“During that first 6 hour interview I was struck by how at ease John was – looking straight down the camera lens. It had the feeling of a confessional”.

– Kevin Macdonald

I was seeking a way to create a film about what happens when famous individuals “transgress” and understand how they confront that experience and seek forgiveness from society. Our society has an ever-evolving relationship with the idea of redemption; who can be redeemed and how. I was interested in making a documentary about what happens when one does something utterly unacceptable; how do they find forgiveness and redemption?



Galliano and Kevin Macdonald began their discussions through Zoom during the first lockdown in the summer of 2020. They met in person for the first time in 2021, during a trial interview conducted in August. That initial interview – conducted while John was on vacation in the south of France with his partner Alexis Roche – convinced Kevin that John was not only a fascinating subject for a film, but also a man willing to expose himself in a raw and unfiltered manner. Full production began in January 2022, and filming took place primarily in London, Paris, and New York. Galliano was primarily interviewed at his countryside home near Beauvais, and at the headquarters of Maison Margiela as he prepared for the Haute Couture collection Cinema Inferno, performed at Palais Chaillot; a theatrical-performative work echoing many of the recurring themes in the designer’s life: addiction, the euphoria of success, abuses of power, and redemption. Filming took place backstage, where an anxious and reserved Galliano disappeared into the darkness of the curtains of his show. In February 2022, Macdonald continued filming with him in the Dior archives, where the designer returned for the first time since his dismissal. Macdonald’s film not only celebrates Galliano’s career but also the myriad human facets, creating a fascinating kaleidoscopic portrait.




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