The Dark Underbelly of Glamour: In the Psychopathic Shadow of John Galliano

By Răzvan Ion

Under a bridge in Paris, a chilling atmosphere sets the stage for a tale that intertwines the haunting allure of singer Lucky Love and the shadowy history of fashion icon John Galliano. In this article, Răzvan Ion delves into the depths of an artist’s influence, exploring the eerie connection between the atmospheric setting, problematic character, enigmatic performers who have graced its stage and how a psychopathic personality can be brilliant.

“A focused awareness of our unnoticed surroundings unfolds: the night-time revellers one passes on a moonlit wander along the Seine, what lies beneath the imprints of their clothes and what happens behind the dimly-lit windows of their homes,” the Maison Margiela’s Artisanal 2024 show notes read.

John Galliano took inspiration from Hungarian-French artist Brassaï and his voyeuristic photographs of Paris at night, reflected in the show’s setting — under Pont Alexandre III lit by a full moon. The deliberate choice of a night with a full moon creates a sense of bewilderment.

Three decades ago, in Sao Schlumberger’s mansion in St. Germain, an almost bankrupt Galliano staged one of the greatest fashion moments of the 90s. In between, John was unceremoniously fired by Christian Dior in 2011, after making that house a giant fortune over a decade. For an appallingly ugly drunken rant outside his apartment that went viral, he paid an enormously heavy price: Dior gave him zero compensation; the French establishment stripped him of his Legion of Honor. This was not, however, the first time. Previously, he had made remarks about abducted children, commented on how interesting is for rich people to dress like hobos for fun, humiliating poor people, destroyed hotel rooms, terrorised employees, and sexually harassed many young male models. And many more problematic moments. No wonder if tonight he left a dead body under that bridge. In the form of a puppet, at least.

So, tonight felt like his final resurrection. Like the cast of this show surviving and winning by dint of their rebellion and sheer audacity. Another reason for the tumultuous applause and stomping of feet at the finale. For sure, a show for the history books.


A cinematic exploration begins as we analyse the peculiar connection between film, sexual arousal, and the portrayal of life’s hardships. This narrative thread unravels the complexities of an art form that has the power to evoke emotions ranging from pleasure to discomfort, using the Parisian bridge as a canvas for this exploration. Like he was aroused by the dark and the underbridge.

The theatricality enhanced rather than compensated for the clothes themselves, with their sculptural and body-modifying and -revealing (we’re talking full frontal, in some cases) silhouettes. Galliano employed no less than 15 different techniques to construct them, eight of which he invented and used for the first time for this collection. Here’s one fascinating excerpt from the show notes, to give you an idea: “Posing as heavy-duty wardrobe staples, featherlight jackets, coats and trousers are constructed through the technique of milletrage: a mirage created from a filtrage composed of a mille-feuille of organza and felt under a wool crêpe printed with a trompe l’oeil of the texture of a classic gentleman’s cloth. It is draped – aquarelled – in a voilette of tulle illusorily printed to appear moon-faded, sun-bleached, tobacco-stained or oily as if illumed by the reflection of water at night. Exercised through emotional cutting, the garments are imbued with the unconscious gestures that shape our expressions: a caban pulled over the head in the rain, a lapel raised to cover the face, a trouser hoicked up to evade a water puddle.”

It was a theatrical tour de force akin to a Toulouse Lautrec painting come to life: frizzy haired ladies tottering through a ramshackle saloon with its jumble of chairs, weathered floorboards and tables strewn with upset magnums. This co-ed show, as vivid and gripping as a feature film in IMAX, also featured men who stalked the room like fugitives, clutching their coats tightly around their tiny waists.

The unease caused by the extreme corseted waists was blunted by the enormous pathos these characters evoked: a man wet and shivering under a broken umbrella; another nearly doubled over in apparent hunger; a woman in a grandiose trench coat that looked made from weathered cardboard, another in a shrunken suit and tattered stockings nervously doffing her hat repeatedly, revealing bandages and plaster encasing her head.

The clothes were gorgeous: sheer bias-cut dresses dabbed with scribbles of silvery embroidery, or dense accumulations of godets; rumpled street-urchin suits nipped and tucked for maximum glamour, and gauzy siren gowns that revealed the models’ enhanced Jessica Rabbit figures, and merkins.

Dolls were also a point of reference, as illustrated by the marionette-like way in which several models walked, and the plastic-like appearance of their skin, courtesy of the incomparable Pat McGrath.

Lucky Love and actress Gwendoline Christie at the parade Maison Margiela Artisanal 2024. © Photo by Pierre Suu/Getty Images.


The dark undercurrents of Lucky Love’s persona surface in the atmospheric backdrop, adding an eerie layer to the narrative. A model, musician, poet, dancer. Lucky Love, cast off the cape he was wearing to reveal his bare torso, cinched at the waist by a severe corset created by iconic Mr Pearl.

A mesmerizing queer figure in both the modelling and music worlds, left an indelible mark on Margiela’s shows in 2023 and 2024. His “Masculinity” song from Margiela 2023 was haunting us for days. Not to worry, this year we will be haunted by “Now I Don’t Need Your Love”. To make it right to the truth Lucky Love was also on the soundtrack of the Gucci show this year.

The name is almost as delightful as it is surprising, given that the history of his music has been built on lost love and broken hearts. In his lyrics, Luc Bruyère (his real name) explores the Odyssey of romantic feelings while questioning notions of gender, especially masculinity.

Luc Bruyère/Lucky Love was born in Lille with one arm. His childhood was an isolated one spent far from others, during which words became precious allies that never left him – whether they were by Rimbaud or Patti Smith. A special affection for outcasts was born. The rejection of his fellow human beings is to be seen as the birth of a powerful rage, prompting a desire to live a thousand lives. No wonder he looked perfect for the Galliano’s stage.

At 15, he got hooked on drugs, and later he became anorexic. His weight dropped to 47 kilograms with a height of 186 cm. The problems with drug addiction became apparent and uncontrollable, so the teenager was admitted to a rehabilitation centre. He was diagnosed with HIV there. After his rehabilitation, he made some unsuccessful attempts to get into movies or become a model.

He was a protege dancer at just five years old, under the guidance of choreographer Carolyn Carlson at the National Choreographic Center of Roubaix, before flying to the Paris Opera, where he rubbed shoulders with Marie-Agnès Gillot. As a solitary and turbulent child, he faced numerous expulsions before joining Saint-Luc, an art school in Brussels, where he aspired to become a visual artist. But destiny – as well as a brief appearance in Abdellatif Kechiche’s La Vie d’Adèle – led him to the doors of the Cours Florent. He shared the stage with Béatrice Dalle and Joey Starr in David Bobée’s play Elephant Man, presented in Paris in 2019. He joined the Madame Arthur cabaret troupe, in which he became a transvestite transformed into ‘La Vénus aux Mille Hommes,’ (The Venus of a Thousand Men in English) a sobriquet borrowed, notably, from his amusing acronym – LVMH. “she allowed me to touch my truth,” declared the artist in the documentary Lucky dedicated to him, directed by Anthony Vibert and Loren Denis (2022).

Now I Don’t Need Your Love, his most recent piece, played live with a choir in the Galliano’s performance, speaks only of love, whether it be happy or tragic. Above all, it is always liberating and so fabulous start to the show.


The spotlight then shifts to the controversial figure, John Galliano, who, like a puppeteer, has pulled the strings of fashion and controversy.

Delving into the psychology behind Galliano’s brilliance, we tried to explore the perplexing question of how a man with so many problematic projections can possess such creative genius. We take a psychological approach to understand the complex interplay between artistic brilliance and the darker aspects of the human psyche. The connection between psychopathy and artistic brilliance is a complex and debated topic within psychology and the arts. Psychopaths are often characterized by a lack of fear and an inclination toward risk-taking behaviour. In the creative process, taking risks and pushing boundaries can lead to innovative and provocative art. They may be less constrained by societal norms or personal fears, allowing them to explore new artistic territories that others might avoid, explains Nicholas M. Thompson in Neuroimaging Personality, Social Cognition, and Character.

People with psychopath traits are known for their intense focus and determination,  This trait can translate into an artist’s ability to become singularly obsessed with their work, dedicating immense time and effort to perfecting their craft. This intense focus can contribute to the development of extraordinary artistic skills and a unique artistic voice.

As we conclude our exploration, the convergence of atmospheric tension, the haunting presence of Lucky Love, and the enigmatic legacy of John Galliano paints a vivid picture of the complex and sometimes disturbing world of art and fashion. The allure of creativity, no matter how brilliant, can often be entangled with the shadows that lurk beneath the surface, leaving us with a haunting question: Can we truly separate the artist from their demons?

John Galliano is a complicated designer to discuss. He’s an unparalleled talent and creative genius responsible for some of the most memorable collections ever shown. He also battles some demons in a dark underworld and tells a haunting story.

Răzvan Ion is the founder of GAY45. A professor of curatorial studies and critical thinking in Vienna, he is passionate about comic books, technology, the stock market, art, alternative indie music, movies, literature, and artificial intelligence. You can find him on: and @razvan_ion

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