Galliano to restart shattered career at top fashion house
British designer John Galliano is to relaunch his shattered career by taking over as creative director of French fashion house Maison Martin Margiela, the label said on Monday, three years after he was sacked by Dior over a drunken anti-Semitic tirade in a Paris bar.
Galliano, 53, who spent nearly 15 years at Dior, is widely considered to be one of the most brilliant fashion minds of his generation.
But the designer -- known for his theatrical flair in both fashion and life -- has been rarely seen since his sacking in March 2011 and subsequent conviction for anti-Semitism.
Galliano's glittering career imploded after he was captured in a mobile phone video hurling abuse at customers in a bar in Paris's historic Jewish quarter.
The Paris criminal court in September 2011 found him guilty of proffering anti-Semitic insults in public -- an offence under French law -- on two occasions in February 2011 and October 2010.
He was spared jail and instead given suspended fines after the court accepted that he was sorry for his actions which he blamed on drink and drugs.
Galliano's first collection for the avant-garde Margiela -- known for its conceptual fashion and all-white stores -- will hit the Paris catwalks in January.
Announcing his appointment, Renzo Rosso, whose OTB group controls Margiela, described him as a "charismatic, creative soul".
"John Galliano is one of the greatest undisputed talents of all time -- a unique, exceptional couturier for a maison (house) that has always challenged and innovated the world of fashion," he said in a statement.
"I look forward to his return to create that fashion dream that only he can create," he added.
During his 15-year tenure at Dior, the moustachioed designer styled himself publicly as a neo-modern Edwardian dandy, assuming rock star poses at the end of his shows.
But backstage he was known to be rather shy and more interested in discussing the technical aspects of his creations.
The son of a British plumber father and a Spanish mother, he was immensely influential and seen as the driving force behind Dior's 700 million euro ($880 million) annual profits at the height of his time there.
- 'Charismatic, creative soul' -
According to industry journal Women's Wear Daily, Galliano will take over all lines at Margiela including haute couture and women's and men's ready-to-wear.
The fashion industry has been awash with speculation in recent months about his future although Rosso last month denied rumours that the designer was to join the house.
The Italian industrialist, nevertheless, made no secret of his admiration for Galliano's talents.
"Who wouldn't like to work with him? If he ever got back his name, I would be the first to produce his collections," WWD quoted him as saying in September.
Galliano underwent treatment for drug and alcohol abuse at an Arizona rehabilitation centre following the scandal.
He later told a magazine he had been sickened to see the video evidence against him, insisting he was baffled by the drunken rant.
"It's the worst thing I have said in my life, but I didn't mean it... I have been trying to find out why that anger was directed at this race (the Jewish people)," he told Vanity Fair magazine.
"I now realise I was so... angry and so discontent with myself that I just said the most spiteful thing I could."
Since his fall from grace, Galliano has been almost entirely absent from fashion, apart from a three-week designer-in-residence role at Oscar de la Renta's workshop in New York in 2013.
Then, in May this year, he reappeared in Moscow as the creative director of Russian cosmetics chain L'Etoile.
Serge Carreira, an expert in fashion and luxury at France's Sciences Po, an elite Paris university, said the appointment would be a new departure for Margiela.
The fashion house has relied on an anonymous team rather than one star designer since its Belgian founder's retirement in 2009.
"The challenge for John Galliano is to show that he is still engaged with his times and is able to translate the spirit of the house without distorting it," he added.
© 2014 AFP