Most of my columns have been dedicated to fun and relatively benign fashion advice. I sit on my pedestal doling out tips on what colors to incorporate into your wardrobe or what scene presences “matter” the most, etc.
Some may write it off as hyper consumerist or vapid, but it’s meant to provide entertainment and insight to the individuals who do in fact care about fashion and style.
But this week, I’d like to address an issue that provokes more discussion than trips to the mall or makeup counter (though those trips can’t hurt either). Because really, who’s to say there’s not room for intellectual enthusiasm in the world of fashion?
If you recall, last February the visionary creative director of Christian Dior, John Galliano, made a fatal mistake for a) someone who ever hoped to be viewed as a decent human being again, and b) someone with such an influential job that placed him very much in the public eye. What happened? In an irrational drunken tirade at a café in Paris, he lashed out on a group of Italian women, yelling anti-Semitic remarks and praising Adolf Hitler, all while unknowingly being videotaped. The immediate reaction within the community —and world for that matter — was strong and obviously negative. Side note: In France, Galliano’s offense could have warranted prison time. All he had to do was pay a fine.
But he was suspended and eventually fired from Dior, losing both contracts and a whole lot of respect from important people within the fashion industry. They made their stand crystal clear (with a few exceptions who wrote Galliano’s action’s off as “theatrics”): It didn’t matter how brilliant he was at creating remarkable haute couture if he projected a violently anti-Semitic attitude in 2011.
That seems like a no-brainer, right? A done deal. Galliano announced plans to attempt to build his own solo line but come on: Natalie Portman has expressed “disgust” in him. His career is over.
Or so everyone thought. A little more than 8 months later, the attitude has considerably changed — all in aims to uphold the “spirit” of Christian Dior as a brand. As the recent search for a new creative director of the famed French fashion house results in basically only rumors and conversations, all of a sudden everyone seems eager to high-five Galliano and welcome him warmly back to his job. Just this month UK Vogue reported that even LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault expresses hope for Galliano to return.
What? Am I crazy here? Nine months is all it takes to forgive a person for unabashed public racism and reward them with a reported 17 million euro contract? While nothing is set in stone yet as Galliano continues his “rehab,” it begs the question: Why is this even a discussion?
The response is quite matter-of-fact: Nobody does Dior like John Galliano (sarcasm deliberate.) His proximity to the soul of the brand is apparently so unparalleled that no designer currently in existence today is capable of carrying on the legacy in the right way. So what does that say about these so-called “spirits” of fashion houses? Brands like Chanel, Balenciaga and Dior are only famous because of their ability to capture and uphold elements of fashion that are classic in some sense. They wouldn’t have existed for so long if that weren’t the case. They wouldn’t have been respected for so long if that weren’t the case.
Dior is Dior, not John Galliano. So if the fashion community’s rationalization prioritizes the upholding and respecting of the house of Dior, the one built by Christian himself in 1946, taking back Galliano seems like the opposite of what they’re trying to achieve. For an industry (and a fashion house, for that matter) that really should be applauded for its remarkable contributions to the canon of fashion design, the lack of credibility is disappointing.
It’s true: If appointed back to his position as creative director, John Galliano will undoubtedly carry on the spirit of Christian Dior, but it will be haunted.
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