John Galliano in a customary end-of-show costume in Paris in 2005. (EPA )
Designer John Galliano appeared on the "Charlie Rose" show Wednesday night.
In his first television interview since he was caught on video in a Paris bar in 2010 making anti-Semitic remarks that prompted his ouster from the storied French fashion house of Christian Dior and from his own label in 2011.
Galliano was clean-shaven, wore a conservative-looking sports coat, his hair slicked back into a ponytail, and was soft-spoken, in stark contrast to the Napoleonic-looking poses he once struck at the end of his runway extravaganzas, when he would appear in costume for the adoring crowd.
In the one-hour conversation, the “two years and three months sober” designer denied being an anti-Semite, talked about making amends and his struggle with addiction.
“In vino veritas is not as simple as that,” he said, explaining that he was a "blackout drinker," and that those blackouts triggered defense mechanisms built up to deal with being bullied at his English boys school as a child, when he felt like an outsider for being gay and an immigrant (Galliano's family moved to London from Gibraltar.)
"No one was more shocked than me. At that point in my career, I had become a blackout drinker ... I have no memory of that event," Galliano told Rose. He went on to explain that he had been researching a men's collection inspired by the Russian ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev, himself an anti-Semite, and that those kinds of thoughts would have been “swimming” around in his head, as he tried to “get to know the character” he was bringing to his runway, in what sounds like a kind of Method-designing exercise.
At the time of his fall, Galliano was designing 32 collections a year between the two labels, with upward to 1,000 pieces in each collection.
Here are a few more takeaways from the interview:
On seeing his racist rant on video, which Rose played in the studio: "I apologize. And I am trying to make amends in the best way that I can."
On Alexander McQueen’s suicide: "I understand the loneliness, that pain .… It was enormous pressure .… I was afraid to say 'no' because I thought it showed weakness. I would take on more and more work which would take its toll."
On his state of mind when he entered rehab in Arizona: "I was emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually bankrupt. Even the first week in Arizona I was in denial. I introduced myself as Johnny G. That was how I was known there."
On working with Oscar de la Renta as an artist-in-residence at his New York studio earlier this year: "I had a panic attack when I arrived .… Then, when I went into the workroom and introduced myself, my shoulders relaxed .… All the creativity came back when I saw the girls [models] come out half-draped in fabric."
On Natalie Portman, a former spokeswoman for Dior, severing ties with the brand because of Galliano’s behavior: "She was right, it was disgusting." (Galliano hasn't made amends with Portman yet, but said he will.)
On his continued recovery: "I'm alive today and I'm grateful today. I couldn't have gone on like that for much longer."
On the future: "I'm able to create, I'm ready to create, I'm feeling fit and good. I hope through my atonement I will be given a second chance."