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John Galliano | Manolo for the Big Girl

John Galliano

In the Clintonian roman a clef, Primary Colors, campaign strategist Richard Jemmons (so, you know, basically James Carville) takes aside the newly-disillusioned True Believer and gives him the single most important piece of counsel I’ve ever heard about living publicly:

“They love you and then they stop loving you.”

By now you probably know John Galliano, my favorite designer, has been removed from his position at Dior after video surfaced of a clearly inebriated Galliano spouting off some shockingly anti-Semitic remarks at a Parisian bar.

Was he provoked? Did he mean what he said or was it just scandal for scandal’s sake? Should it matter? The video theoretically happened around New Year’s Eve, is it coincidence that the video is surfacing in the wake of Charlie Sheen’s outbursts and the upcoming Paris ready-to-wear shows? What does it say about our ever-growing love for tabloid feeding frenzies?

What a nightmare.

Of course Dior had to fire him. Of course they did. It doesn’t matter if he really meant it, or whether it’s right to judge people on what they say when they’re off the clock and on the sauce. It doesn’t matter that Galliano for Dior was the most brilliant partnership of the post-couture age. He had to go.

But it still breaks my heart.

Listen, I’m not a real fashion insider by any means but even I knew the open secret that was John Galliano’s increasing struggles with mental illness. Do I think he truly is anti-Semitic? No, I don’t. I think he’s a brilliant, self-destructive artist who is finally cracking under the pressure of unrealistic expectations in an industry that sells unrealistic expectations for cold, hard cash.

I think in some way, he wanted out. It happened to McQueen, too.

Yesterday, Suzy Menkes wrote in the International Herald Tribune:

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.

Most other designers, preparing their collections for Paris Fashion Week, and stunned by Mr. Galliano’s swift fall from grace, asked not to be quoted on the record.

But Victoire de Castellane, Dior’s jewelry designer, summed up the general feeling when she said: “It’s terrible and pathetic at the same time. I never knew that he had such thoughts in him. Or that he so needed help.”

Obviously I don’t agree with what Galliano said, and LVMH was 100% right to fire him, if for no other reason that he did damage to the brand by being in violation of France’s laws explicitly against Anti-Semitism.

I also understand why Natalie Portman –the new face of Dior fragrance Miss Cherie– would refuse to be associated with Dior as long as Galliano was on board. She said “In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”

I get it, but girlfriend also loves her vintage Chanel and I’m going to go ahead and guess that on the Bigot-meter, Galliano’s stupid drunken rant isn’t anywhere close to Mme Gabrielle’s antics –including but not limited to being the long-term romantic partner of Nazi officer Hans Günther von Dincklage, using his influence to keep her apartments in Paris during Nazi occupation, using newly-passed anti-Semitic laws to try to regain control of her perfume from the Wertheimers and getting involved in a failed Nazi attempt to get the ear of Winston Churchill by using one of Chanel’s former friends who was related to the prime minister. The friend, Vera Bate Lombardi, refused to cooperate and got arrested by the Gestapo for her trouble.

I also wonder if supporting a brand whose creative director has anti-Semitic views is worse than supporting a company that uses sweatshop labor and turns a blind eye to ongoing and systematic human rights violations and inhumane labor laws?

Is it okay to punish someone for what they think but not for what they do?

I don’t know. This thing is tragic from all ends. And of course I’m Episcopalian. I get a lot of garbage for being a person of faith but the last time Anglicans were killed just for being Anglican was 1557 so I can’t know or even pretend to know what it would be like to hear something like with the ears of someone for whom the Holocaust still looms large.

I wish I could come up with something pithy or a meaningful insight but I can’t. I’m sad. Sad for Galliano, sad for Dior, sad for an industry that’s fundametally broken, sad for a society that’s loves a feeding frenzy more than it loves forgiveness and sad that we’ll never see anything like the Fall 2007 Dior Couture show again.

20 Responses to “John Galliano”

  1. Frances March 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    Very, very interesting take on Galliano’s meltdown. I don’t really know what to think about the whole thing. I don’t know if mental illness makes one prone to hurling racist abuse at strangers (he made some rude comments about Asians too), but then I know next to nothing about mental illness.

    Re: Natalie Portman,

    Of course she would recoil at his words, and rightly so, but as you pointed out, vintage Chanel is hardly guilt-free. Plus she happily allies herself with the virulent racist Alan Dershowitz, and can’t muster a word of criticism for Israel’s apartheid policies in the West Bank and its strangulation of Gaza. Plus, she didn’t appear to have a problem wearing Rodarte, who were going to release the ultra-tasteful “Juarez” collection with MAC. Plus, she signed a petition requesting leniency for Roman Polanski. A bit inconsistent, is our Ms Portman.

    Selfishly, I do feel sad that Galliano will likely never work again. I like pretty things as much as the next girl and that man? Made some very pretty things.

  2. wildflower March 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    What you point out about Mme Gabrielle doesn’t say “bigoted” to me, either. It says “opportunistic, greedy, cold-hearted, self-serving, and calculating,” but not necessarily bigoted. One could have nothing against Jews at all, but be utterly delighted to be able to take advantage of them given the opportunity.

  3. Lisa March 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    He was fired for what he did. He said that strangers were deserving of being gassed because of who they were. He said that he loved Hitler. Speech is an action.

    Anti-Semitism is an under reported problem throughout Europe, especially amongst the well heeled. And yes, it is past time they be called upon it. Quite frankly, I am shocked there has been any response to this and suspect that had he made anti-Semitic statements that didn’t involve his love of Hitler (Jews are greedy, Jews control the media, Jews control the government) this would have been a non-issue for everyone but Ms. Portman.

  4. Thea March 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    Plummy, I liked your description “a brilliant, self-destructive artist who is finally cracking under the pressure of unrealistic expectations in an industry that sells unrealistic expectations for cold, hard cash.”

    “cracking under the pressure of unrealistic expectations” sounds like an average day for most women over size 00 and we don’t get a golden parachute for our troubles.

    He did make beautiful clothes tho….

  5. dillene March 2, 2011 at 7:15 pm #

    As my father often paraphrases: “Baseball’s Hall of Fame is filled with tributes to men who have been replaced.”

    We *will* see other collections as captivating as Dior’s Fall 2007 show in the future. Someday we’ll see something even better than that. Maybe not for a little while, but there is always new talent down the line. The only difference is that this new designer should understand that an “artistic temperment” does not give him, or her, the right to spout bigoted nonsense or behave badly.

    Another thing that galls me- Mr. Galliano was supposed to be a professional. There are any number of talented, hard working people whose livelihoods have been thrown into confusion by his sudden dismissal. If he were truly worthy of leading a brand as prestigious as Dior then he would have remembered that before he opened his mouth. He should have stepped down if the pressure was too much. Let’s hope that Dior’s next designer will lead with a little more grace and intelligence.

  6. marvel March 2, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    I almost left this in the comment of the Manolo’s first post on the subject, but religious issues are touchy, so I didn’t. But since you brought it up first:

    Manolo asked, “However, such repulsive behavior in one so mightily talented raises the larger question: how does one separate the art from the artist?”

    I interpret these events as reminders that even in the midst of the most vile, degraded and even evil of places, there exists a divine spark of great beauty that makes each soul worth redemption. One gives thanks to the source of all goodness for the beauty, and grieves the darkness. One can hope that Galliano finds the grace and peace he so obviously needs, and overcomes his darkness.

  7. Lisa March 2, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    Frances,

    Do you recall what preceded the ‘strangulation’ of Gaza?
    Do you know what preceded the ‘apartheid’ policies in the West Bank?

    Probably not.

    In the period after Israel removed the settlers from Gaza, thousands of rockets were fired at civilians throughout Southern Israel from Gaza and terrorists continued to assault Israel. Only then did Israel blockade Gaza. What would you do if rockets were coming at you on a daily basis hitting kindergartens and homes?

    In the West Bank, there used to be free movement within the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel. Wave after wave of suicide bombings forced an end to that. The checkpoints only came into existence AFTER hundreds of Israeli civilians died at the hands of suicide bombers.

    To this day, whenever there is a security threat, Israelis have to go through check points within their own country to stop terrorism. Some cities, like Eilat, have permanent checkpoints on the roads into the cities. Schools have massive walls and bomb blast doors as well as armed guards… because they are needed.

    Have you ever looked out your window and seen the smoke from a bomb? No? Lucky you.

  8. AmazonPrincess March 2, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    Regarding Natalie Portman, I think it was more the timing that forced her to publicly react. After all, she was about to become Oscar Winning Actress Natalie Portman.

  9. Frances March 3, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    “Do you recall what preceded the ‘strangulation’ of Gaza?
    Do you know what preceded the ‘apartheid’ policies in the West Bank?”

    Do you recall what preceded the suicide bombings? A decades-long military occupation. Funny how that never gets brought up.

    Lisa, do you recall what exactly gave Israel the right to settle ANY of its citizens in the Occupied Palestinian Territories?

    Nothing. So stop acting like the removal of settlers from Gaza was a favour. I don’t expect flowers for not robbing a bank.

    To say that there was free movement in and around the West Bank before is totally laughable. If you were an Israeli settler/colonialist maybe. If you were a Palestinian? Eh, not so much.

    “To this day, whenever there is a security threat, Israelis have to go through check points within their own country to stop terrorism.”

    And Palestinians don’t? What, they’re not stripped and beaten and degraded at checkpoints within their native land?

    “Some cities, like Eilat, have permanent checkpoints on the roads into the cities. Schools have massive walls and bomb blast doors as well as armed guards… because they are needed.”

    Lucky them. Palestinians have no such protection from Israeli bombs and tanks.

    “Have you ever looked out your window and seen the smoke from a bomb? No? Lucky you.”

    Have YOU looked out of your window and seen white phosphorus lighting up the night sky, burning the flesh of your people? No? Lucky you. Have you ever screamed with despair and frustration as the United Nations tries desperately to broker a ceasefire, only to be stymied by the endless veto of the United States? No? Lucky you. Lucky all of us.

    If you have issues with the use of the term “apartheid”, take it up with Desmond Tutu, Richard Falk, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter, the list is long.

    If you have issues with the use of the word “strangulation”, take it up with political advisor Dov Weissglass. ‘The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,’ and “It’s like a meeting with a dietitian,” Weisglass said. “We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not to starve to death.”

  10. Frances March 3, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    And Ms Plumcake, I promise never to ever talk politics on this blog again.

  11. coffeeaddict March 3, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    An excellent post Ms Plumcake. Without trying to exculpate Gallliano; I am seriously pissed at all the people and the media who were so quick and eager to jump on the bandwagon of mighty, righteous politically correct BS. Publicly condemning Galliano. We are all guilty of remarks, behaviour… that are inappropriate.
    As for what Galliano did, I am mostly sad and disappointed that a man who’s capable to create such beauty has so much darkness and ugliness in his soul.
    As for Ms. Portman, as you so excellently pointed out, she is guilty of a lot of bigotry and should have kept her mouth shut.

  12. Thea March 3, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    I went online to review at the 2007 collection and – I had forgotten how very beautiful.

    It makes me sad to realize that the ugliness in his soul has deprived us to the beauty that also exists. I hope that he can get the help he needs and find his way back to happiness and sanity.

  13. Camo March 3, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    I didn’t even think about Natalie Portman’s relationship with the Mulleavy sisters and the Juarez collection, or her toting vintage Chanel. I think Portman is basically a bim, scaled down to ballerina-sized cuteness, personally, based on her vapid interviews, shallow performances and most recently her support of the odious Roman Polanski.

    I know it’s too easy to use her signing that Polanski petition, but damn, it’s hard for me to have a shred of respect for her now taking a position she *had* to take, after staking her place in support of a child rapist who fled before sentencing to demonstrate her high-minded artist bona fides. SMH.

  14. Debs March 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    So I’m a Jewish person whose older relatives experienced anti-Semitism in the US, and I don’t feel anything personal about Galliano’s break-down. He was apparently suffering some sort of mental melt-down and that was expressed in words meant to be shocking. In France, declaiming the Holocaust is actionable and viewed, I think, as a type of “Hate Speech.”

    Galliano meant to be shocking. He appears to be mentally ill. Dior did what was necessary. It had to distance itself from him and his actions. A company in the US might have given him a minder and subsequently mailed him away to rehab only to recall him for a few publicized meetings with high-profile Rabbis. I hope he gets the help he apparently needs.

  15. Nancy March 4, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    Dear Plumcake, I found Frances’s comments despicable. Is this what your blog is to be?

  16. Astra March 4, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    Dear Plumcake, I found Frances’s comments despicable. Is this what your blog is to be?

    Oh good Lord, Nancy, I don’t agree with Frances at all but I just moved on instead of going to complain to mom.

  17. kristin March 4, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Marvel, that was very well put.

  18. Ellen W. March 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    On the vintage Chanel- I think the major difference is that Coco is dead and wearing the clothes she designed doesn’t benefit her personally. It’s a somewhat arbitrary division and it goes out the window if one can argue that the work expresses bigotry/prejudice/hatred (as some have said about Wagner and others), but as a rule it’s relatively simple. Not perfect, sadly.

  19. sydney March 4, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    “Do I think he truly is anti-Semitic? No, I don’t”
    People who aren’t anti-semitic do NOT no matter what the current state of their mental health make anti-semitic remarks. Do I think he is truly anti-semitic. Absolutely. Mental illness or not.

  20. mel March 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    Mr. Galliano’s comments were bad. Naughty Mr. Galliano, shame on you. His creations were from his genuine love of women and a gift in his soul to give beauty to who or what he loves. Was he wrong? Sure. Deep down do I really care? No. Maybe I should, but I see this as an issue that just doesn’t matter. What matters more to me are the lies that continue to circulate about my president. What matters more to me is that all those banking thieves kept their jobs and continue to screw us on a daily basis – but the House of Dior doesn’t seem to care about that. Maybe Ms. Portman could issue a statement about these things and it would warrant my attention.