“Yeah, I’m going to tell you everything,” says fashion designer John Galliano in the forthcoming documentary High & Low: John Galliano, which traces his rise in the 1990s and 2000s couture scene, then abrupt fall after racist and antisemitic outbursts in 2010 and 2011.
Academy Award–winning documentarian Kevin Macdonald, who has previously chronicled the lives of Whitney Houston and Bob Marley, was interested in exploring the complexities of so-called cancel culture through Galliano’s experience. “Our society has a constantly evolving relationship with the idea of redemption; who can be redeemed and how,” the director said in a statement. “I was interested in making a documentary about what happens when you do something utterly unacceptable; how do you find forgiveness and redemption? Should you be forgiven?”
In the first trailer for the film, premiering exclusively below, famous faces including Anna Wintour, Edward Enninful, Penélope Cruz, and Kate Moss recall Galliano’s renowned run at fashion houses including Givenchy and Dior. “We wanted to be part of that magic,” says Naomi Campbell.
But Galliano’s success came with inevitable pressures. He says he drank to cope, which led him on a path of destructive behavior, culminating in incidents in 2010 and 2011, one of which caught him on camera hurling antisemitic insults at someone outside Paris’s Café La Perle. Galliano was convicted and fined for the outbursts and ousted from Dior. After years spent undergoing rehab and consulting with Jewish organizations, he was named creative director of Maison Margiela in 2014.
His comeback was a muted one, and Galliano has largely stayed out of the spotlight since—until now. A mutual friend introduced the designer to Macdonald, who began speaking with his future subject during the pandemic. Tentative Zoom sessions led to a “trial interview” in August 2021; four additional sit-downs followed. “What particularly compelled me was that John didn’t really understand what had happened himself—it was still a mystery to him,” says Macdonald. During their initial six-hour interview, “I was struck by how at ease John was looking straight down the camera lens,” he adds. “It had the feeling of a confessional.”
The documentary features an inside look at the fashion industry, including the lead-up to Galliano’s triumphant Cinema Inferno fashion show at Paris Fashion Week in 2022, and his first return to the Dior archives since being fired. That trip was made possible, in part, by Sidney Toledano, who is Jewish and the former CEO of Christian Dior Couture, and who speaks candidly about the impact Galliano’s antisemitic remarks had on him. Macdonald also interviewed one of Galliano’s victims and plaintiffs in the court case against him, Philippe Virgitti.
“Galliano did not have any editorial control of the film,” says Macdonald of his unflinching documentary. “Throughout the process, he has been helpful in introducing us to friends, family, and former colleagues, but understood that filmmaker objectivity was essential.”
The film was produced by Macdonald and Chloe Mamelok through Macdonald’s production company, KGB Films, in association with Condé Nast Entertainment. It debuts theatrically in the US and UK on March 8.
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