Gods And Kings: The Rise And Fall Of Alexander Mcqueen And John Galliano by Dana ThomasGods And Kings: The Rise And Fall Of Alexander Mcqueen And John Galliano by Dana Thomas

Gods And Kings: The Rise And Fall Of Alexander Mcqueen And John Galliano

byDana Thomas

Paperback | January 26, 2016

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The New York Times–bestselling author of Deluxe chronicles the making and unmaking of two of the greatest fashion designers of our time
 
In the mid-1990s, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen exploded onto a fashion scene that was in an artistic and economic rut. Their daring visions shook the establishment out of its bourgeois, minimalist stupor with vibrant, sexy designs and theatrical runway shows. By the end of the decade, each had been hired to run one of couture’s most storied houses, Galliano at Dior and McQueen at Givenchy. They were icons of a new generation of rock-star designers who headlined the transformation of luxury fashion from a small clutch of family-owned businesses into a global, multibillion-dollar corporate industry. But the pace was unsustainable. In 2010, McQueen took his own life. A year later, Galliano was fired in the wake of an alcohol-fueled, anti-Semitic diatribe.
 
In her groundbreaking work Gods and Kings, acclaimed fashion journalist Dana Thomas tells the true story of two unforgettable artists. In so doing, she pulls back the curtain on the revolution that has remade high fashion over the last two decades—and the price it demanded from the very ones who saved it.

Dana Thomas began her career writing for the “Style” section of the Washington Post and served for fifteen years as the European cultural and fashion correspondent for Newsweek in Paris. She is a contributing editor for T: The New York Times Style Magazine and has written for the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Harper’s Baz...
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Title:Gods And Kings: The Rise And Fall Of Alexander Mcqueen And John GallianoFormat:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 8.4 × 5.4 × 0.9 inPublished:January 26, 2016Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143128396

ISBN - 13:9780143128397

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 Tangier is a city as ancient as the gods, the point where Europe and Africa meet, where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean kiss. It is a labyrinth of narrow streets “thronged with the phantoms of forgotten ages,” Mark Twain wrote in 1869, and “a basin that holds you,” Truman Capote observed, where “the days slide by less noticed than foam in a waterfall.”   In the early 1960s, a young boy from Gibraltar named John Charles Galliano passed through Tangier by ferry with his Spanish mother, Anita, on his way to and from school in Spain—an exotic commute made necessary by a long-standing diplomatic feud between his father’s homeland and his mother’s. Galliano delighted in their stopovers in this strange, curious place. “The souks, the markets, woven fabrics, the carpets, the smells, the herbs, the Mediterranean color,” he reflected years later. This, he mused, was “where my love of textiles comes from.”   Galliano was born on November 28, 1960, the middle child of three; sister Rose Marie was five years older, and Maria Inmaculada, three years younger. His father, John Joseph, was a plumber who “came from a long line of rather serious and practical men, such as tailors and carpenters, all of whom traditionally began to earn a living from the age of fourteen,” he said.   His mother, Ana Guillén Rueda—known as Anita—hailed from La Línea de la Concepción, the Spanish town across the border from Gibraltar. The Guillén family had long lived in the rural farming region next to the British territory. “They were renowned for their passion for flamenco and a temperament that was utterly fiery and wild,” Galliano said. She grew up under Spanish dictator General Franco’s totalitarian regime—a pro-nationalist and ultra-Catholic society where anti-Semitism flourished. After she married and moved to Gibraltar, she maintained close ties to her homeland, and made sure her young son was educated in the same culture as she had been.   The Galliano family resided at 13, Serfaty’s Passage, a small lane named for the local Jewish population, where the Esnoga Grande, Gibraltar’s principal synagogue, has been located since the early eighteenth century. Gibraltar has had an uneasy relationship with the Jewish community for centuries. Following their expulsion from Spain in 1492, much of the Spanish Jewish diaspora—known as the Sephardim, after the Hebrew word for Spain—passed through Gibraltar on their way to settlements in North Africa. They were given the right to a permanent settlement in 1749 and the population flourished quietly until World War II, when all its residents were evacuated from the two-and-a-half-square-mile territory.   The Gallianos were devout Catholics who attended mass regularly. Galliano was baptized at the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned, the baroque seat of the Roman Catholic diocese of Gibraltar, before the same altar where his parents wed. He adored growing up in Gibraltar, mesmerized, he said, by the “bright alleyways, sunshine, blue skies and a main street bustling with sailors.”   But John Joseph wanted more for his children: in 1967, he moved the family to South London, so six-year-old Galliano and his sisters could receive a better education. Galliano remembered thinking how brave his mother was “to depart with three young children to a completely foreign country where she did not speak a word of the language.” They eventually settled in the middle-class neighborhood of Peckham, where they lived in a tan brick Victorian row house at 128, Underhill Road.   London was in the throes of the Swinging Sixties, when the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and other British Invasion bands were topping the pop music charts; fashion designer Mary Quant was liberating women with the miniskirt and hot pants; film directors Tony Richardson and Richard Lester were turning out cool, ironic comedies like The Knack . . . and How to Get It; and photographers David Bailey, Terence Donovan, and Harry Benson were capturing it all for Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and Life. “In a decade dominated by youth,” Time magazine pronounced in its landmark cover story on the city’s cultural renaissance, “London has burst into bloom. It swings; it is the scene.”   The Galliano family wanted no part of that London. Instead Anita, a striking redhead with an olive complexion and a good figure, did what she could to keep the scents, the colors, and the music of southern Spain alive in cold, gray, rainy England. She cooked traditional Mediterranean meals and encouraged her young son to sing—he had a lovely, pitch-perfect voice—and to dance the flamenco. “On tabletops,” he later explained, because “it makes more noise.”   “I knew pretty soon that I had inherited this whole Spanish pride thing from my mother—the way you look and the way you walk and dress,” he admitted. “I never knew anyone with more outfits than her. She was the sort of woman who would dress herself and her children up to the nines and scrub us all with baby perfume until we sparkled just to go out down the road for a coffee. I can still remember all the heads turning as she walked by.”   John Joseph—a fairly short and stocky, fair-skinned, balding man—ran his own plumbing business, and taught his son some of the basics, like how to use a blowtorch. “I would sometimes go out with him on jobs and I was struck by how he always had to have the most perfect finish and the cleanest joint, and how sad it was that all that craftsmanship would never be appreciated,” Galliano said. His father’s profession—which was very low on the English class scale—eventually became a sore spot for him: “People are always talking about how I am a plumber’s son,” he complained. “I am my father’s son primarily. What he chose to do as a career was his choice and he did it very, very well.” Galliano’s mother worked as “dinner lady” in a local school cafeteria. He never made mention of it publicly.   Throughout the home there were souvenirs of their pre-London life, such as a Spanish fan and pictures of Gibraltar. Galliano spoke Spanish with his mother and English with his father. “Other boys’ houses always seemed to smell of dogs and musty carpets,” he said, “whereas ours smelt of garlic and clean laundry and fresh flowers.”   As in Gibraltar, the Galliano family attended mass regularly. On some Sundays, Galliano would serve as an altar boy at the 9:30 service and play guitar for the Latin mass. He was particularly captivated by “all the pomp and ceremony, the clouds of incense, the Holy Communion outfits,” he recalled—an infatuation that would later surface in his fashion shows. For his first communion, he said, “I arrived in this dazzling white suit, bedecked with rosary beads and gold chains and ribbons with all the saints on.” The other boys were in their conservative school uniforms. “I knew I was different,” he admitted, “and I ended up being photographed with all the girls. But it didn’t bother me. I always liked being with the girls, and I also liked looking cool.”   Galliano readily allows that his parents instilled a strong set of values, “like the need for discipline and honesty, the notion that things were only worth doing if you did them to the best of your ability, and the importance of a deep religious faith,” he said.   Later in life, however, Galliano disclosed that underneath the appealing veneer, there lurked unspoken darkness and fear. His father “was pretty strict and I was always afraid of him,” he said. “If I went a little bit too off—slap! It was Dad’s upbringing and it was Victorian, and that’s the way he was.” One time, when he found his father’s authority too suffocating, he said, “I flew into a rage [and] took the guitar I had been practicing on and smashed it down the stairs, just missing my father’s head. Everyone looked utterly horrified, and . . . I can remember the sick feeling I had, until I could finally go to confession and get rid of all the badness that I felt.”    • • •    GALLIANO WAS A GOOD STUDENT and passed the entrance exams for Wilson’s Grammar School, a state-run boys’ middle and high school. Back then, grammar schools were a cross between private school and public school: students wore uniforms and the education was a rigorous, advanced curriculum, but the tuition was state-funded. Students came from all backgrounds, particularly what one Wilson’s alum described as “hardcore middle-class families who pushed their kids to do well on the exams.” For the less privileged, such as Galliano, attending grammar school was a ticket to a better life.   He quickly discovered “what the whole place was going to be about,” he said. “The first-year pupils were bullied by the sixth-formers; they would do it very slyly, like suddenly winding you with a blow to the stomach, which would leave you gasping, on the way to assembly, while the teachers would more or less turn a blind eye.” Eventually, he made a small circle of friends and participated in creative school activities, such as theater.   Small and thin with a dark Mediterranean complexion, he had little in common with the other boys in such a heavily Protestant culture—a gypsy-looking imp in the midst of a clan of freckle-faced roughhousers. He wasn’t much of an athlete—he only excelled at tennis, a sport he’d keep up in adulthood. He wasn’t too masculine either, opting to sass up his conservative uniform with mod shoes and cut his hair in a stylish wedge. “John stood out and was camp,” says a former schoolmate. “He definitely got picked on.”   “I developed cunning because of it,” Galliano later said. “I would work out what earlier trains to get and what carriages to ride in to not be beaten by the boys. Hiding the bruises, hiding the cuts, going home and not being able to talk about it, because if I did I would get another good beating.” Instead of complaining he escaped, he said, “into my own world of daydreams.”   He also fought back—with words. “Some of the boys, I think, found [Galliano] a bit of a challenge to their gender identity [and] they did make his life difficult,” says David Jefferson, Wilson’s school chaplain at the time. “He responded with spirit. I thought he was a brave boy, [though] not always particularly wise. . . . It may be that it is sort of his character that when he’s provoked, he retaliates.”    • • •    DURING THE MID-1970S, Britain was seized by social and economic upheaval: in 1975, inflation reached a record 26.9 percent; the following year, the world’s once-greatest empire humbly accepted financial aid from the International Monetary Fund. Unemployment was on a steep rise, reaching 1.6 million in 1977.   Out of this upheaval emerged “punk”: a pop-culture movement driven by the rejection of all things bourgeois and establishment. Contemporary historians believe that punk was born in the early 1970s downtown Manhattan music scene—in particular rockers Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine, their band Television, and the New York Dolls, most of whom played at the rock club CBGB. But punk hit its stride in Britain, thanks to a relentless, press-savvy English entrepreneur named Malcolm McLaren, who, after a visit to New York, put together and managed a new band in London called the Sex Pistols. Their music was aggressive and, at the time, shocking; twenty minutes into their first concert—at St. Martins School of Art in Soho in November 1975—they were thrown off stage.   London punks were far more raw, primal, and combative than the New York breed. They came from all classes—a social revolution in itself—since everyone, from the East End council-housing kids to the private-school-educated posh set, suffered from the country’s economic woes and general malaise. Their look was vulgar and violent: safety pins through cheeks; gothic eye makeup; bleached spiky hair; torn, disheveled clothing often with offensive statements blasted across the front. It was an utter rejection of all that was considered aesthetically beautiful or appealing, of all that was English reserve and gentility.   The epicenter for the movement was SEX, a shop that McLaren and his girlfriend Vivienne Westwood had on King’s Road. There they sold Westwood-designed clothes that combined Third Reich style and symbolism with bondage, Dickensian poverty, Surrealism, Dadaism, and downtown New York rock and roll. There were T-shirts with outrageous slogans and rude images; trousers in shiny fabric with zippers on the sides or along the crotch seam; and shirts made of parachute fabric, with straps and rings. “They were powerful, those clothes,” said Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, who regularly dressed in Westwood’s designs. “You had to have balls to wear them. You’d get confronted in the street and you’d have to stand up for yourself.”   At Wilson’s Grammar School, this all played out gently. Since it was a school with uniforms, the boys couldn’t really rebel in their manner of dress or appearance; they followed the movement by reading Melody Maker and New Musical Express, by listening to the music, by partying on weekends—for them it was more part-time recreation than a life philosophy. As immigrants, the Gallianos cautioned their children not to renounce their new culture and instead taught them to earn respect through hard work. For Galliano, that meant attaining good grades, helping his father on plumbing jobs, and working at a car wash.   In 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister after five years of political and economic crises under leftist Labour Party rule. During her three terms in office, the Iron Lady introduced a series of reforms, such as deregulation of the financial business and privatization of state-owned companies, all of which she deemed necessary to modernize Britain and lift it out of its economic morass. Simultaneously, the policies opened doors for social mobility and created opportunities that encouraged entrepreneurialism.   Galliano, the son of a working-class immigrant, was coming of age in this era. In pre-Thatcher Britain, chances are he would have been stuck in his station for the rest of his life, unable to move up the social or economic ladder. Thatcherism and punk changed all that by boosting the economy and breaking down Britain’s entrenched class barriers. Galliano wasn’t a Thatcherite and he wasn’t a punk. But he benefited from both movements: they provided a way out of Peckham, gave him a sense of possibility, and would allow him to fulfill his potential.    • • •    AT SIXTEEN, Galliano left Wilson’s, having passed several of his O-level—or Ordinary Level—exams, the British standardized tests for the basic level of the General Certificate of Education. He thought of studying foreign languages—he was quite gifted in language, so much so that his mother hoped he “would become a great interpreter in a courtroom somewhere,” he said. But a quiet passion for art tugged at him, so he enrolled in the design and textile program at City and East London College in Whitechapel. He still lived at home on Underhill Road and he kept up his church and family commitments, including going to confession regularly until he was eighteen. He stopped, he said, because “whatever I had to confess, I need to confess only to myself.”   For pocket money, he took on a part-time job as the “Saturday Boy”—or Saturday sales assistant—for the Howie’s concession at Topshop on Oxford Circus. Galliano enjoyed the retail side of fashion, though since it was a Saturday morning job, there were times when his supervisor Heather Lambert had to “tell him off for being late because he had been out clubbing the night before,” she recalls now. Once he did arrive, fashion PR maven and Howie’s co-owner Lynne Franks reports that “he was incredibly professional and worked very, very hard.”   At the end of his second year at the college, his teachers advised him to apply to St. Martins School of Art for its year-long foundation course—a survey of the school’s various offerings—so he could, as he put it, “sort out in my mind what I would specialize in.”   St. Martins was founded in 1854 by the parochial authorities of the St Martin-in-the-Fields church to add art education to the church school curriculum. In the 1980s, the British government “was giving education grants more freely than today,” remembers Hamish Bowles, a British-born American Vogue editor who also attended St. Martins then. That allowed for more of a melting pot of students from all social classes. But St. Martins was also quite a competitive school that was reputed for educating rising stars such as restaurateur Michael Chow, designers Paul Smith and Rifat Özbek, the writer A. A. Gill, and Pierce Brosnan, who studied commercial illustration before going into acting. For Galliano to have been accepted to the school was a real achievement.   At last, he had found his sort of people, and he reveled in it. “You could move across the disciplines and keep abreast of what was happening in, say, the film or sculpture department,” he said. “Fashion wasn’t put into a ghetto. Some of my closest friends were graphic artists. . . . I found it inspiring popping in to see my mates painting or sculpting or whatever. It was a real traditional art school where we could all intermix with style.”   As at his previous schools, Galliano was shy and a loner. St. Martins teacher Sheridan Barnett remembers him as “a quiet little mouse, off on his own working quietly, always in the library looking at books.” He dressed inconspicuously in jeans, T-shirts, and Doc Martens boots or in vintage 1950s suits, crisp white shirts, and often a tie, and he still wore his thick hair in a gelled wedge—“with a quiff in the front, like Elvis,” remembers his classmate John Cahill.   Trailblazing fashion professor Bobby Hillson says that she and her colleagues quickly realized that Galliano was “terribly talented” and he “worked incredibly hard.” At first, Galliano studied graphics, filmmaking, fine art, and fashion illustration, and, he said, “I found I really enjoyed drawing.” In his third year, he decided to specialize in design, and later confessed, “even then I had my head set on being an illustrator.” His drawings were very detailed and precise, often in pen and ink and watercolor, and rather elegant in their style. “Phenomenal,” remembers his schoolmate and friend Sara Livermore. “You’d put them on the walls.”   One of the design teachers, Hanna Weil—pronounced “vile,” which students used to crack was appropriate—gave her class an elaborate fashion project to do in a short time. Just before they were to present their projects, Weil said, “I want to show the portfolio of one of the students to give you the idea of the standard I expect.” She opened the dossier and, Hamish Bowles remembers, “it was page after page of the most exquisite drawings you have ever seen. The imagination was so fecund, the concepts were so thoughtfully realized and executed. The penmanship was just exquisite. We were all quaking in our boots.” It was Galliano’s portfolio. “He was clearly the star,” Bowles says, “and rightly so.”    

Editorial Reviews

Advance Praise for Dana Thomas's Gods and KingsJon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Thomas Jefferson and American Lion: “Dana Thomas has written a real-life saga that is as engaging and compelling as a work of great fiction. By taking us inside the fascinating world of fashion, she gives us a startling tale of ambition, creativity, fame, and ultimately tragedy. This is a terrific book.”Michael Gross, author of Model and House of Outrageous Fortune: “Comprehensive, detailed, coldly accurate yet extraordinarily sympathetic, Dana Thomas’s Gods and Kings is a fascinating double biography of two dressmakers of genius. But it's also a riveting, definitive history of the three decades in which fashion devolved from a coddling cottage business to a cutthroat industry quite capable of killing its young. As commerce triumphs over art, you can only cringe, but you also have to admire Thomas's exhaustive account of what fashion folk would no doubt refer to as a moment that will never, and can never, be repeated.”Teri Agins, author of Hijacking the Runway and The End of Fashion: “John Galliano and Alexander McQueen raised the bar creatively and theatrically with their high-impact fashion shows. In Gods and Kings, Paris based fashion writer Dana Thomas digs deep with the zeal of a historian, to chronicle the parallel dramas of the British fashion wunderkinds, whose careers ended tragically, way too soon.”Richard Johnson, columnist, The New York Post"McQueen and Galliano were two peas in a perverse pod who revolutionized fashion. No one but Dana Thomas could have explained with such insight how their fantasies became ours and directed our dreams."