John Galliano and Oscar de la Renta.
I don’t know about you but I’m happy that John Galliano will be designing again. I realize that he’s said some damnable, hurtful things. We all watched the vile camera phone video that came to light in early 2011 wherein he drunkenly spouted unprovoked anti-semitic remarks to Parisian cafe patrons looking like some insane racist pirate. We also heard of his Anti-Asian sentiments and while I have in the past wanted to carve bastards in their bigot-faces for such odious behavior (which, for the record, is how Dior heads labeled it right as they sacked him) today I feel nothing but relief. I’m especially pleased that highly-respected members of the fashion community are spearheading this move to give him another chance.
The report originally told to WWD states that Galliano will be installed in Oscar de la Renta’s design studio for a three-week residency at the prompting of Vogue’s Anna Wintour. In the article, Oscar says something nice and mild. And then Galliano responds with gratitude, contrition and thoughts regarding his battle with alcoholism. It’s all lovely and measured. It’s also vague in terms of what a “residency” actually means which seems exactly right considering the amount of scrutiny under which this collabo will fall.
On one hand, I’m not entirely surprised that John Galliano is back-ish. If you remember from Grace Coddington’s interview with Huff Po in December, she did hint at a possible return despite the disgrace, “I hope he will return but I don’t know. That’s a tough one to get over…I love John, I think he’s brilliant. He certainly intends to come back—when he’s ready.” On the other hand, people were enraged. Natalie Portman, the face of Dior at the time was “shocked and disgusted,” and Karl Lagerfeld in typical Kaiser fashion went on a tirade about how furious he was that John could injure LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault’s favorite label considering how supportive the executive had been of the designer in the past. He equated the transgression to hurting Arnault’s child. Um…OK.
With all that in mind, you might ask yourself how I could feel such positive feelings towards a comeback. The thing you have to understand is that it has nothing to do with reason or redemption. This is not an exploration of penance. It has nothing to do with thinking that he may have earned a return since he’s been good while plugging at a 12-step program. Or whether or not his punishment has been overly harsh considering how other celebrated members of the fashion elite are known Nazi sympathizers. Or how it was unfair that Galliano was stripped of his duties at Dior and at his own eponymous label as well as losing his Chevalier of the Legion of Honor award. It does not even touch on how every time I’d ask anyone working in fashion about Galliano, they said they miss his work but would never go on record beyond expressing pity (other than the stylist Pat Field who blasted everyone over email in his defense).
In a New Yorker piece regarding Galliano’s implosion, the writer Michael Specter (who profiled the designer in 2003, an article worth revisiting if for no other reason than quotes like these: “John is really the reference point for the rest of us,” one of his competitors, the designer Diane von Furstenberg, told me. “Because we are making clothes, and he is making magic.”) notes the hypocrisy: “He deserves all the blame and ignominy that befalls him. But let’s watch the self-righteous indignation and reserve a little anger for the enablers. Because when it comes to people like John Galliano, there are way too many of them to count.” Word.
All told, however, the reason I’m happy is simple and juvenile. I’ve loved the guy’s work since I was a kid. He, along with Alexander McQueen, has always been one of my favorite designers. It’s a question of some weird, screwy imprinting that happened one meeeellion years ago a.k.a. the early ’90s which even allows me to gloss over his over-reliance on costumey motifs during the latter part of his career and all those awful logo tees. It’s not reasonable and it’s not as if I know the guy but WWD’s Bridget Foley’s words on the subject have always resonated with me. ’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.’ Coupling the names felt ominous and I’ve been worried that John Galliano might, in some drunken fit of depression (and again, this is my conjecture fueled by hyper-romantic notions from childhood), might do something permanent and terrible to himself.
I just want the guy to be happy. I want him to make stuff (preferably on the more relaxed schedule that Tom Ford and Azzedine Alaia work) and from wherever he likes, like Hedi Slimane. I want him to stick around. I hope this renewed faith in his abilities and his temperament are rewarded. And that deep down he doesn’t really hate Jews. Or Asians. On that note, I leave you with this classic House of Style from when Todd Oldham interviewed John when they were both tiny babies. It’s fantastic.