John Galliano Struggled to 'Forgive' Himself for 2011 Antisemitic, Racist Rant: 'It Was a Disgusting Thing'

The designer, who was found guilty of two separate hate crimes in Paris in 2011, opens up about his fall from grace in the new doc, 'Highs & Lows: John Galliano'

<p>Kevin Mazur/Getty</p> John Galliano attends Vogue

Kevin Mazur/Getty

John Galliano attends Vogue's Forces of Fashion Conference at Milk Studios on October 12, 2017 in New York City.

John Galliano is revisiting — and repenting for — his past controversies.

In Kevin Macdonald's new documentary, High & Low: John Galliano, out now, the 63-year-old fashion designer looks back at the 2011 scandals that led to his immediate firing following a 15-year tenure as the Creative Director of Dior.

Galliano was one of the couture fashion industry's most influential names and visionaries throughout the '90s and early '00s, before he upended his career in 2011 following a string of antisemitic and racist incidents, including the infamous video in which he professed his love for Hitler at a restaurant in Paris.

At the top of the film, the designer, who has been the creative director of Maison Margiela since 2014, begins by admitting, “It was a disgusting thing, foul thing that I did. It was just horrific.”

The documentary showed footage of two of Galliano’s verbal attacks, and gives space to one victim, Philippe Virgitti, who was on the receiving end of the designer's vitriol in a bar in Paris in 2011.

“Seeing yourself like that was the most frightening,” Galliano says of watching the footage back. “I couldn’t recognize that person. I felt horrified. Ashamed. Embarrassed.”

While Galliano says he apologized to Virgitti for the tirade, Virgitti says he doesn’t remember an apology and finds the designer insincere. “I felt bad for him,” he admits of Galliano. “I did feel bad for him.”

Reflecting on his outbursts, Galliano, who was born in the British territory Gibraltar, adds, “I can say I’m not racist, but every day you actually learn that all of us are a bit. But we just need to unlearn it and like immigrants. I am one. I was one.”

Virgitti, however, claims in the doc that he feels the designer is racist, and regrets saying in court that he isn’t.

Following his multiple outbursts, Galliano was convicted of committing two hate crimes in Paris and faced a fine equivalent to $8,500.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images John Galliano
Jason Kempin/Getty Images John Galliano

In the first incident, which resulted in Galliano’s Feb. 24 arrest, he was accused of verbally assaulting two people at La Perle, a cafe down the street from his Marais apartment. The second case involved an incident on Oct. 8, 2010, at the same bar, where he was accused of insulting a 40-year-old woman.

During the trial, he'd taken the stand in his own defense and testified that he didn't remember the outburst that was directed at Virgitti due to a triple addiction to sleeping pills, Valium and alcohol.

"I have an addiction. I am currently seeking treatment," he told the courtroom at the time.

Related: 13 Fashion Controversies That Sparked Passionate Debate

At the height of his career — which started at Givenchy in 1995 before he took over Dior in 1997 — Galliano says he always wanted to “escape.” He says he'd find himself “drinking for days” and “throwing myself into the gym, trying to get sober and get back to work.”

“It was this vicious cycle. I was in denial, but I am an alcoholic,” he shares.

<p>Derek Hudson/Getty </p> John Galliano poses at the former atelier of Christian Dior in 2005

Derek Hudson/Getty

John Galliano poses at the former atelier of Christian Dior in 2005

The documentary also features a handful of high-profile celebrities who shared their memories and experiences with Galliano, as Kate Moss admits he taught her how to walk on a runway and Penélope Cruz recalls him creating an "incredible" wedding dress for her without her even asking.

Galliano was “not like all the other fashion designers," Charlize Theron says. “There was something about him that was so odd and unique. He was just so into it.”

Related: Kim Kardashian Shares Behind-the-Scenes Look at 'Mystical Magical Margiela' Show with Kylie Jenner and Mom Kris

<p>Star Max via AP</p> John Galliano and Charlize Theron at the Met Gala in 2006

Star Max via AP

John Galliano and Charlize Theron at the Met Gala in 2006

Touching on his controversy, the actress, 48, adds, “I will never make excuses for him. It was despicable, disgusting behavior. But it’s really, really hard to kind of explain circumstances that another person has never been in. Now I’ve never been there, but I’ve witnessed that. My father wanted to shoot me. So the concept of like, ‘You cannot do bad things.’ This illness is so beyond what a lot of people can even wrap their heads around."

Naomi Campbell says she never watched the videos of Galliano’s verbal attacks. “This is a person that I’ve grown up with that I love that’s opened my mind in this world that I knew nothing about and I wasn’t gonna see him go down like that.”

<p>David M. Benett/Getty</p> John Galliano and Naomi Campbell attend a party in celebration of Edward Enninful in London on December 1, 2014

David M. Benett/Getty

John Galliano and Naomi Campbell attend a party in celebration of Edward Enninful in London on December 1, 2014

Anna Wintour had a similar approach, as she admits in the documentary that she didn’t worry about the cost to her reputation of maintaining her friendship with him. “I just wanted to help him.”

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In the 12 years since his fall from grace, Galliano has met with Holocaust survivors, rabbis and made a concerted effort to educate himself.

“Some people will forgive me and some people will never forgive me. I realize that now. Today, I’m clean and sober and have been for 11 years now. I’m in a much happier place and creating,”  he said before noting, "I will be in recovery for the rest of my life."

High & Low: John Galliano is out now in select theaters and available to stream on Mubi or rent on Vudu.

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