Three years after his anti-Semitic rant in a Paris bar, two years after the French courts found him guilty on the charges of “public insults,” and just one month after losing his course at Parsons due to an anonymous petition, John Galliano finally decided to make a public apology. The designer, who is now exactly two years and three months sober, sat down with Charlie Rose on Wednesday night to discuss his downfall. “This conversation is not about rehabilitation or prosecution,” said Rose, “it is about understanding why. It is about accountability. It is about great creativity and troubling addiction.” Under the harsh television lights, Galliano’s face and dress—stiff button-up shirt, tight ponytail—made him look jarringly gaunt and serious. Galliano told Rose that he’s a different man now, and is willing to do anything to atone for his actions. Highlights from the interview:
Galliano talked to Rose about his abuse of alcohol and claimed that he had no knowledge of his rant at the Paris café that night. “In instances like that, what I've since discovered, since I wanted to know too where that hate came from, I've discovered that when one is a blackout drinker, what happens is that it can release paranoia of such a stage that it can trigger frustrations from childhood,” Galliano said. “And due to that, it can trigger a self-defense mechanism. Now, having had quite a tough time at school and being subjected, persecuted, bullied, called all sorts of names as children do, and living a lie because I was gay and couldn't admit to that at home...I couldn't escape…”
Rose then reminded Galliano that not all alcoholics turn into raging anti-Semites and that this was not the only embarrassing incident for the designer. “That’s correct,” Galliano replied in a whisper.
Galliano spent much of the interview talking about the pressures of the fashion industry, like having to churn out a combined 32 collections a year for the House of Galliano and the House of Dior. For relief, he fed his addiction: “I mixed alcohol with benzos, which is a lethal combination. I would take Valium to stop the shaking so that I could do the fittings and then the sleeping pills so that I could sleep. My life became unmanageable…I would use the alcohol to quiet the voices [in my head].”
Galliano talked about the legendary designer Alexander McQueen, who killed himself at the height of his career in 2010. “I knew Alexander – I knew Lee,” Galliano told Rose. “I understood that loneliness, that pain… You’re only as good as your last collection, which is an enormous pressure.”
When Galliano was quietly invited to work on Oscar de la Renta’s Fall 2013 collection, he told Rose that “I ran to the bathroom, threw myself on my knees and said the Serenity Prayer and I went into the workroom and introduced myself to the tailors, the seamstresses in their white coats—and then it was fine.” Being back in an atelier jumpstarted the designer’s creativity: “it just came back when I saw the [model] walk in in partially draped fabric. It was just an amazing feeling that I thought I’d never feel it again.
Part of learning to conquer his addiction is learning to let go of perfection and tapping back into a deep spirituality, Galliano said. “We’re setting that bar impossibly high, we don’t understand how we’re doing it and people say, ‘Wow, how are you going to top that?’ And we’re like, ‘Well, yeah we’re going to, don’t worry.’ That’s what makes us wake up in the morning. I was very sad…I was acting like God. Now I realize I’m not in the driver’s seat. I listen and talk to God daily. “
Galliano’s final mea culpa to Rose and his audience: “I apologize. And I am trying to make amends in the best way that I can…I cannot ask for forgiveness, it has to be bestowed on me by the people if they think I deserve it…I’m ready to create. I’m able to create. I’m feeling good again. I hope through my atonement I will be given a second chance. A second chance…"