Beautiful dresses and Nazi rants—these are things we’ve come to expect from former Dior artistic director, John Galliano. After an alleged racist rant Thursday, February 24th, Dior suspended the designer. When a video of Galliano spewing things about his love for Hitler surfaced four days later, the company fired him within hours.
The question on everybody’s lips is this: will Galliano ever work in the fashion industry again? Has he damaged his reputation enough to turn people away forever? His show for Paris fashion week has been canceled and celebrities avoided the Dior fashion show after hearing news of the incident. Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman, who has a contract with Dior, released a statement that she will not work with Galliano in any way and that she condemns his remarks.
We’ve seen the fashion industry bounce back from controversy before. In 2005, H&M dropped supermodel Kate Moss from their fall advertising after photos of the model snorting white powder (allegedly cocaine) surfaced. Chanel and Burberry refused to renew contracts with her only a few days later. But Moss bounced back and still continues to work to this day after the charges against her were dropped due to a lack of evidence. In fact, Galliano is rumored to have hired the same lawyer to contest his dismissal from Dior that Moss used in her scandal.
In 1996, a hoax email spread throughout the internet about Tommy Hilfiger making racist statements on the Oprah Winfrey show. Supposedly he said, “If I had known African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews and Asians would buy my clothes, I would not have made them so nice. I wish these people would not buy my clothes, as they are made for upper-class white people.” Despite that the email was a “big fat lie” and Hilfiger had never appeared on the show before, people boycotted his brand for a bit before the truth came out. Oprah even had Hilfiger appear on the show to set the rumor straight. The email’s source was never found.
I’d say part of what draws people to the fashion industry is the controversy surrounding it. Runway shows feature possibly anorexic women, walking in shoes that are terrible for their feet, wearing see-through tops. Models wear bikinis on beaches in the winter, risking hypothermia so the ads can come out in the summer. People in the industry are not known to be the most sane of our population but the audience loves the controversy. Kate Moss’s salary doubled after the cocaine scandal. A Youtube search of supermodel and television personality “Tyra Banks” yields a video entitled “Tyra Banks Gone Wild” as the first result. The public wants crazy fashion people!
When Michael Richards, who played Kramer on Seinfeld, made racist remarks, he issued an apology on the Late Show with David Letterman and continued to work. Mel Gibson recovered from his racist comments as well after an apology. Whoopi Goldberg even jump to his aid and defend him.
Galliano is taking the same route as Richards and Gibson. He has issued an apology saying, “I have fought my entire life against prejudice, intolerance and discrimination, having been subjected to it myself. In all my work my inspiration has been to unite people of every race, creed, religion and sexuality by celebrating their cultural and ethnic diversity through fashion. That remains my guiding light.” In addition, the designer has checked himself into rehab. Friends are already jumping to defend Galliano claiming that he is a kind man who was in a bad situation.
“He was drunk, he was probably drugged, and the people (in the video) were playing with him,” says Antigone Schilling, writer for a French fashion website, slate.fr. “He would never have said that under normal circumstances, and we must remember that. We must also remember what he has brought to Dior over 15 years with the house.”
Some suspect that he was suffering under the stress of the upcoming Paris Fashion Week. We saw the horrible things that result from the pressure of the industry only last year when Alexander McQueen committed suicide after his mother’s death. The woman who “discovered” him, Style Icon and Magazine Editor Isabella Blow, took her life only three years prior. There are dark secrets under those beautiful dresses.
Perhaps the pressure got to Galliano and caused him to lash out. Perhaps he was only calling for attention. We will have to wait and see what transpires, but I have a feeling that Galliano will continue to work. Shilling is right in saying that he did amazing things for Dior and we’ve always been fascinated by his clothing. After his show was canceled, people still want to see what he would’ve shown even if it was “just out of curiosity.” Deep down, we’ve always known he is a little crazy. Anyone who creates such creative and beautiful clothing must have a very different brain than the rest of us. Just look at what he wears in his own shows! I expect a full recovery and a new collection within two years.