Less than five days after the first news of Galliano's booze-fueled incident broke, the 50-year-old designer's career lies in shambles. His dismissal from Christian Dior today has, for the most part, garnered approval from a fashion community stunned and horrified by his drunken anti-Semitic remarks caught on video. But it has also been met with widespread disbelief, sadness, and pity.
In an article published this afternoon, the International Herald Tribune's Suzy Menkes gave voice to the conflicted reactions that many fashion industry insiders — Giorgio Armani, Franca Sozzani, and even Chanel Iman among them — have attempted to describe. Her piece chronicles Galliano's work since his graduation from London's Central Saint Martins in 1984, exalting his "magpie imagination and his ability to turn his ideas into extravagant hats or dainty shoes" and noting that his leadership helped Dior "to break the billion-dollar barrier." Menkes reminds those who would dismiss Galliano's entire career based on the incidents revealed since last Friday — "odious" that they may be, to quote Dior's official statement this morning — would be a mistake.
Citing conversations with Galliano's friends, who would only speak under the condition of anonymity, Menkes says that the designer has been "persuaded ... to go immediately into rehab." She also draws the inevitable parallels between Galliano's demons and those of other contemporary designers, pointing out that he is not the first of his creative ilk to break under the pressures of today's fashion industry:
While the vile statements seen coming from Mr. Galliano’s drunken lips on the Internet video deserved the nearly-universal condemnation they were receiving, there is pathos in the vision of one of the world’s most famous — and best paid — designers alone, clutching a glass in a bar. The pressure from fast fashion and from the instant Internet age to create new things constantly has worn down other famous names. Marc Jacobs, design director of Louis Vuitton, ended a wild streak in rehab. Calvin Klein famously rambled across a sports pitch and admitted to substance abuse. And the late Yves Saint Laurent spent a lifetime fighting his demons...Above all, the suicide of Alexander McQueen, a year almost to the day before Mr. Galliano’s public disgrace, is a specter that hangs over the fashion industry. The death from cardiac arrest of Mr. Galliano’s closest collaborator, Steven Robinson, in 2007 also sent out an early warning signal.
In addition to the ominous McQueen reference, it is noteworthy that the reflective tone and retrospective nature of Menkes's article is not unlike an obituary in memory of a career, rather than a life. What Menkes does not address directly — perhaps because it has been said many times already — is that unlike previous designers struggling with addiction, Galliano's downfall was caused by his racist and anti-Semitic remarks, which are even more difficult (if not downright impossible) to gain redemption for than the most embarrassing booze- and drug-addled mistakes.
Despite her sympathetic tone, Menkes does not conclude on an uplifting note. Galliano will fight for his job at Dior, she writes, and has enlisted the help of London lawyer Gerrard Tyrrell, who represented Kate Moss in 2005 when she was dropped from several campaigns after photos of her snorting cocaine were released to the media.