So precious are fashion's stars that editors, critics, and other top fashion people are struggling to contextualize, even justify, the incidents surrounding John Galliano that led to his firing from Dior. Once the video of Galliano in that Paris café surfaced, the industry knew he was finished — and an editor from WWD who made the morning television-news rounds told CNN he couldn't see Galliano working again until that video was forgotten. Knowing that may never happen has top fashion folk in a state of mourning. WWD's Bridget Foley likens the Galliano incident to Alexander McQueen's suicide, which cast a pall over the fall show season just one year ago.
The fashion world is in shock over the news of John Galliano, his dismissal from Dior and the inexplicable behavior that prompted it. The sadness equals the shock. With everyone together for collections in a twist of timing, there’s the aura of a wake after a sudden death. May this not offend those who love Alexander McQueen, but I feel not unlike I did last year when I learned the news of Lee’s death: One of our rare geniuses, a man of unique and irreplaceable talent, has destroyed his career. Coming on the front-end of the New York shows, McQueen’s death cast a dark shadow over the entire season; Galliano’s career crash casts a pall over Paris.
While charges against Galliano are pending, the fashion crowd looks for an explanation. Surely, for who may arguably be the industry's biggest living star, there must be one? Few accounts in the press have surfaced from people who know Galliano personally. Foley spent some time with him in interviews or showroom visits, but she didn't know him as a friend and writes that the designer never seemed like anything "other than as a quiet, gentle soul." She continues:
When my colleague Marc Karimzadeh and I met with him in New York in December, his conversation proved pure delight. He was open, witty and, for whatever reason, in the mood to talk. Part of that conversation came to mind as I watched the hideous video that is his ultimate undoing. Galliano told Marc and me of a shoot with Marion Cotillard in a tacky ballroom in SE4, a rough section of southeast London. “You from around here? I can tell from your voice,” the proprietor inquired. “I was like, ‘Yeah, but not SE4. I grew up in SE22’ which is even rougher,” Galliano responded. “I asked ‘What happens here now?’ Because I couldn’t imagine SE4 people coming in here now and doing waltzes. So he goes, ‘Well, we get a lot of gay people coming in here now....They dance.’” From the tinge of first-person knowledge in his delivery, it was clear Galliano found the exchange with the proprietor both amusing and stirring.
Foley adds that she had hoped, when early reports of the incident in the Paris bar surfaced last week, that they had been blown out of proportion. "Who hasn’t at some time told or laughed at a questionable joke based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, fat, skinny, whatever, without buying into the real meaning?" she ponders. "And practically speaking, who shows the angriest, most frightful side of his personality for the first time in middle age?"
Stylist Patricia Field might agree with her: She sent out an e-mail blast to 500 friends and members of the media, titled "IN PRAISE OF JOHN GALLIANO." She told WWD she viewed that footage as an extension of the theatrics in his runway shows. “John lives in theater. It’s theater. It’s farce. But people in fashion don’t recognize the farce in it. All of a sudden they don’t know him. But it’s OK when it’s Mel Brooks’ ‘The Producers’ singing Springtime for Hitler.” She also posted the message to her Facebook page.
Though critics and editors are not disputing Dior's decision to dismiss Galliano, their ambivalence toward him highlights fashion's mothering nature — the inclination to protect its most talented stars where other industries might dismiss them. WWD is calling the firing one of the biggest stories in fashion history — and it's rare a story this big gives the publication the opportunity to send an editor to speak to outlets like CNN. Yet Vogue.com, which seems to have been positioning itself as a fashion news outlet increasingly of late, has avoided covering the story altogether. (British Vogue's website, conversely, has been updating on it like mad.)
And still, the shows in Paris march on, with many in the audience preoccupied by Galliano and Dior — an unfortunate situation for young designers like Anthony Vaccarello, who managed to get Emmanuelle Alt to attend his show.
Dior may be excused for responding to Galliano's alleged anti-Semitic attacks quickly. But will Galliano ever be? Fashion insiders would like to find a reason. From the Times:
“He has always been pretty shy,” said Daphne Guinness, the British socialite. She speculated that the intensity of creative and commercial pressures on designers at global luxury houses may have had an impact on Mr. Galliano’s state of mind. She added, “It makes me terribly worried for him. He has had a couple of tough years.”