A new documentary explores how John Galliano, the former Dior designer, came back from scandal

Toledano’s contributions to the documentary — as well as the differences between some of his and Galliano’s versions of events — make for intriguing viewing. Toledano describes a meeting he called with Arnault to address Galliano’s addictions, in which he recalls that Arnault suggested the designer could stop working for six months to address his problems, but Galliano says, “I don’t remember ever being offered six months out.”

Why exactly Galliano said what he did is the great mystery at the heart of this documentary. Macdonald says he “started to think about this film as a kind of psychological detective story. How can you ever really know what’s going on inside somebody else’s head, especially when [Galliano] doesn’t even know? It raises these interesting questions about what we are responsible for — does everything we say really represent who we are?”

Was it innate racism, or the pressure of creating up to 32 collections a year? Macdonald says of LVMH that “I think they were in denial. He was doing incredibly well, making lots of money. So, yes, they should have done more . . . but it’s also maybe the teething problems of an industry that went from a cottage industry to a huge one.”

In court in Paris in 2011, charged with public insults for reasons of origin, religion, race or ethnicity (he was found guilty and given a suspended fine), Galliano blamed overwork and addiction. He has apologised and has worked with Jewish leaders to understand the history of the Jewish people, but how can one ever be sure he is being truly remorseful for racist actions, or regrets tarnishing his reputation?

To me the documentary feels balanced, although some might see making it all as supporting a fashion system that legitimises toxic behaviour. I’m inclined to share the view of Washington Post senior critic-at-large Robin Givhan that “if you believe that he should be able to move on, and believe in giving him another chance, you also still can feel deeply for what he said. It’s possible to hold these two conflicting thoughts in your mind . . . ”

It seems fierce loyalty from industry players is the reason Galliano has been able to keep working. As Macdonald puts it, “It’s amazing for any artist to come back for a second act after such a public downfall.”

Once known as fashion’s showman, Galliano has kept a lower profile in his decade at Margiela. Macdonald says numerous people he talked to didn’t even know that he was the creative director there. For now, Galliano stays backstage after shows, but if that changes, a phoenix might make a suitable post-show costume.