Galliano describes how he slipped into addiction slowly over the course of time, while continuing to work at a high level. “I never drank in order to be creative, or to do the research,” he tells Sischy. “I didn’t need alcohol for any of that. At first alcohol was like a crutch outside of Dior. Then I would use it to crash after the collections. I’d take a couple of days to get over it, like everyone. But with more collections, the crash happened more often, and then I was a slave to it. Then the pills kicked in because I couldn’t sleep. Then the other pills kicked in because I couldn’t stop shaking. I would also have these huge bottles of liquor that people got for me. Towards the end, it was whatever I could get my hands on. Vodka, or vodka-and-tonic. Wine, in the belief it would help me sleep. Wrong. I did manage to stop the voices. I had all these voices in my head, asking so many questions, but I never for one second would admit I was an alcoholic. I thought I could control it.”
“What had started as self-expression turned into a mask,” Galliano says. “I lived in a bubble. I would be backstage and there would be a queue of five people to help me. One person would have a cigarette for me. The next person would have the lighter. I did not know how to use the A.T.M.”
Galliano tells Sischy he was aware on some level that he had a problem, especially as he began to lose days to bouts of drinking. “Not having washed, I’d be covered in sores and humiliated,” he says. “I had the tremors. I wouldn’t sleep for five days. I would go to bookstores and get some self-help books, but I was in denial. I’d throw myself back into the gym. I’d be careful about what I ate. And, of course, the whole cycle would start again.”
Sischy reports that Galliano’s bosses at LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), the parent company of Dior, confronted him on at least two occasions shortly before his downfall. First, Sidney Toledano, C.E.O. of Dior, took Galliano to lunch and said he needed to get help. According to Sischy, Galliano turned the tables and suggested that Toledano should change his diet and eat more healthily. The second confrontation occurred when Bernard Arnault, chairman and C.E.O. of LVMH, and Toledano told Galliano he was going to die if he didn’t do something about his problem. In response, Galliano tore off his shirt to reveal a gym-toned torso and asked, “Does this look like the body of an alcoholic?” Other friends told Sischy they wanted to intervene, but that in the end no one wanted to betray the designer, and that after a drinking binge, he’d seem fine again.
All told there were three separate accusations of Galliano’s having made anti-Semitic tirades. Galliano reiterates that he does not remember the events of the night in 2010 when his remarks were videotaped, explaining, “When everyone came over to tell me that I had done these terrible things, I was walking round and round and round not really knowing what had gone down. My assistant told me about the video. When I saw it, I threw up. The feeling was like I was about to take a step out onto the street and a bus or truck whooshed past me and the blood was drained from my legs. I was paralyzed from the fear.”
Galliano tells Sischy about his admission to an Arizona rehab facility on March 1, 2011. Here staff confiscated pretty much everything he brought, including the Keith Richards memoir, Life.When he was allowed his first two-minute phone call, he called Bill Gaytten (who had stepped in as creative director of the John Galliano label), just before the Galliano fashion show began in Paris, hoping to tell the models what they should be thinking as they walked down the runway. The call did not go well. “Bill said, ‘Do you realize what you’ve fucking done?,’” Galliano recalls, “and I said, ‘Kind of.’ But I still didn’t. I couldn’t say yes. I just couldn’t. And those were the last words we shared. That’s someone I’ve known for 30 years. Even now I’m still learning every day how many people I hurt.”
Linda Evangelista was the sole friend to make the trek for Galliano’s first visitors weekend. “I just didn’t want that weekend to go by without anyone reaching out to him,” she tells Sischy.
A few weeks into Galliano’s recovery, Kate Moss contacted him and asked him to design her wedding dress, something they had discussed when he was still at Dior. Galliano tells Sischy he felt it was a gift: “Creating Kate’s wedding dress saved me personally because it was my creative rehab. She dared me to be me again.” Moss describes the gown as “absolutely gorgeous, a diaphanous 1920s-type dress, romantic, with gold sequins in the shape of the phoenix—as if he was saying he would rise from this.” She tells Sischy that “when my dad gave his speech he thanked everyone and then he referred to the genius of Galliano, who made his daughter’s dress. Everyone stood up and gave John a standing ovation. It was the most moving thing, because suddenly John realized he wasn’t on his own.”
Sischy speaks with a wide range of sources for the article: Galliano’s friends and colleagues, including Kate Moss, Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg, Elton John, Anna Wintour, Jonathan Newhouse, and Naomi Campbell; members of the Jewish community, including Rabbi Barry Marcus, of London’s Central Synagogue, and Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League; and several addiction specialists and major retailers.