John Galliano has stories to tell. One of them includes a fateful swim with Penélope Cruz. It was that event in Saint-Tropez, France, which has apparently inspired the Maison Margiela design head to go fur-free, following in the wake of Gucci, Versace, and Michael Kors.

The designer, who has made a comeback ever since returning to fashion at Margiela following his anti-Semitic remarks and subsequent trial, spoke about the instance in a new interview with French Elle that PETA shared. As he was frolicking in the water with Cruz, Galliano randomly met PETA senior vice president Dan Mathews, who opened his mind up to going fur-free. “One summer, I was swimming in the sea with Penélope Cruz in Saint-Tropez,” Galliano said. “And just then, Dan’s face popped out of the water. It was like in Jaws, very frightening!”

It wasn't just Matthews who inspired Galliano to rally for animal rights, though: It was also his dog Gipsy, who's popped up on the designer's Instagram before. “He is part of the therapy that I started in Arizona,” Galliano revealed, “The idea is to take care of someone else, to get out of my egocentrism. My life is more balanced.” In fact, the designer’s initial conversion to vegetarianism wasn’t about animals at all, he said: “I really became a vegetarian in order to get in better shape. I play sports, I take care of myself and I've never been more clear-eyed. The energy that I get from having fewer toxins in my body is extraordinary. The pressure in the fashion industry is the same, but now I know how to step away and meditate, and my life has gone from black to white!”

While Galliano is just now announcing his commitment to go fur-free, it's been a while since the designer showed fur on the runway, outside of feathers, as Vogue notes. “[The real luxury today] is authenticity and inventiveness,” he said, providing one explanation for why he's started turning away from fur. “You can be outrageous and fun without fur! Come and party with us, you’ll see!”

Galliano has been on somewhat of a press run this past year, most notably talking about his experience in rehab after being fired from Dior and, later, fined €6,000 and €16,500 in court fees for his victims of his "public insults" based on origin, religion, race, or ethnicity in 2011, as The Guardian reported. (Galliano apparently rattled off 30 anti-Semitic comments over 45 minutes, as the publication noted). He's been paying in other ways as well, as earlier this year he told The Wall Street Journal, "I continue to atone." “Recovery is an amazing journey to go through—to be given a second chance at life, and to regenerate creatively,” he said. “It’s actually more intense, the levels of creative highs. I guess it’s because you are more aware of them as well. Because you are just so electric—all the good things that I love about this industry, the process…it makes me jump out of bed in the morning.”

Related: Are Young Royals Like Kate Middleton Turning Their Backs on Real Fur?