Born in Gibraltar to a Spanish mother and English father, Galliano was brought up in lavish Spanish Roman Catholic style, which clearly influenced his later penchant for the baroque. When he turned six, his family moved to London where the young Galliano attended Wilsons Grammar School. He eventually won a spot at St. Martin's School of Art in London, where he graduated in 1984 with a first class honors degree.
So brilliant was Galliano's graduate collection that both press and buyers raved about him as fashion's new genius. Drawing inspiration from the French Revolution, he had created an eight-outfit collection that instantly attracted commercial attention. Galliano's first catwalk show for his own label the following year, entitled "Afghanistan repudiates Western ideals", confirmed that he was an eccentric talent on the rise.
Galliano moved to Paris in 1991. He continued to produce flirty, historically-tinged collections but under growing financial duress. In 1994, he finally secured a backer and managed a precarious arrangement working out of lofts and mansions lent by wealthy patrons. Galliano became the most sought-after designer in Paris, and in 1995, was hired to design for Givenchy.
Galliano designed two collections for Givenchy before he was replaced by another controversial Brit, Alexander McQueen. Arnault had decided to move Galliano over to Christian Dior, the crown jewel of LVMH's fashion empire.
The initial Dior shows were a fantastic success, even more grandiose and fanciful than anyone had imagined. His mermaid gowns, chinoiserie shawl dresses and massive Masaï necklaces under wasp-waisted suits were copied everywhere. The likes of Madonna, Nicole Kidman and Emmanuelle Beart were photographed wearing his most beautiful gowns at Cannes and at the Oscars. Galliano had put Dior back in the spotlight.
In July 1998, his couture collection for Dior -- Pocohantas and d'Artagnan outfits paraded past a steam locomotive -- was a disaster of extravagant proportions. The critics panned it as proof that Galliano could do little more than turn out costumes for theatre, leaving the ladies who lunch with nothing to wear.
Rumours circulated that Galliano would soon be out of a job. In response, he toned down the rococco and produced a carefully pared-down haute couture show at Dior's Avenue Montaigne salon in January '99. With plenty of tightly tailored jackets, slouchy trousers and Mao caps and military armbands as the only historical indulgence, critics applauded it as Galliano's return to realism.