In church, on Sunday, the Reverend Father said this quote “every saint was a sinner and every sinner has a future.” He continued, “Saints were once like us, weak and fragile and in need of God’s guidance.” For some reason that had me thinking about John Galliano and this post. I’ve come at it from different angles but not really known how to adequately express what it is I am trying to say, without coming off too angry or irked. So here’s me giving it another go, hopefully, something will stick this time. News about Galliano’s return to fashion was always going to be a big deal simply because of his fall from grace. His return is via Maison Martin Margiela, comes with an element of surprise not least because of the disparaging aesthetics, both are on opposite ends of eccentricity; Galliano of the weird and wild and Margiela spare and austere. What the union will create is one that will be hotly anticipated, but let’s face it, this is not about fashion. Most of what Galliano will do from now on, and for a long time, will not be about fashion and that’s why it’ll be hard to judge him on the fashion alone.
And I’m over hearing people say, just get over it.
How the people whom he offended want to feel is not up for debate. Galliano’s offence did not just stop within the confines of the fashion industry, he made a mockery of one of the most heinous atrocities of the modern world. His was a hate crime, plain and simply put. Nothing about it, is acceptable. Nothing about it should ever be. So telling the people whose parents, grand-parents, generations were led into gas chambers, and killed for the simple fact that they exist, to simply just get over it, is an offence in itself. Don’t. But then again, its easy for people to say that when the shoe is not on their foot. Yes he was drunk, and yes people do stupid things when they are drunk, but words, spoken whether drunk or not, cannot be taken back, they cut deep and they hurt. And you know what they say about alcohol and the truth.
This brings us to the issue of the return itself. The fashion industry is going through a tricky period, it has become predictable and maybe even too simple, at least that’s the reason that some give for Galliano’s return. Things are a lot less interesting with the lack of eccentricities on the catwalk, Jeremy Scott at Moschino is something of a kitchy play where Galliano’s wackiness is concerned so the case for his return is being made as one of necessity. But let’s lay things bare here; has Galliano served his time for his crime? Its a tough one to call, and trying to, in any way, make excuses for this, is insulting to say the least. That said, there has to be a way for a man to redeem himself and right his wrongs. We are a society of flawed human beings, a forgiving society and we give each other second, third, even fourth chances. The same way we let society rehabilitate murderers is the same way John Galliano should be allowed that rehabilitation and redemption. How he intends to do that, is up to him.
Following his fall from grace, Galliano was fired from Dior and his label, found guilty of racist and antisemitic abuse and fined, has been to rehab, spent time with members of the jewish community in an effort to make amends and put the past behind him, and some acknowledge and welcome that. He is saying all the right words, humbled and lessoned. But isn’t that always the way; I say that with a hint of cynicism. Galliano is a designer without boundaries, his creativity is envied by most, eccentric at times, wild at others, there is no disputing his talent. But as I said, his return will have very little to do with fashion. Everything he does will be scrutinised intensely and, for the most part intentionally. Everything he says will be taken with a grain of salt.
Some question Margiela’s motives; is this a publicity stunt, to garner commercial interest in a brand whose appeal is largely niche? And who better than Galliano to invite such interest? On the other hand, for fashion to survive it needs risk takers and play makers, Galliano is both of those, and Margiela needs that. Still, pinch of salt.
I suppose the unwillingness to let this be a case of forgive and forget is because, for the most part, fashion has gotten too many free passes and we are not feeling as magnanimous in this case. This is not the first time the industry has found itself in a conundrum of morality, racism, sexism, weight issues, Terry Richardson etc. Fashion has a knack for turning a blind eye and making excuses when it should step up to the plate and make a stand, artistic expression and profit be damned. It is an industry in desperate need of moral fibre. Galliano should be given a second chance; to make amends and earn forgiveness. He will only do that through his actions, not his words, and for now, not his work. Even then, its a slow burn, it will take time, and no, you don’t get to tell people to get over it.
I wish him well.