The chronicles of John Galliano and the quickest pardon in fashion history

Galliano walking the finale of his spring 2010 show. Photography by Eric Ryan/Getty Images.

As is the case with virtually any news story these days, the developments in the John Galliano story⎯the designer being accused of hurling anti-Semitic insults at an (incidentally non-Jewish) couple while drinking at the Paris café, Le Perle⎯can be measured in tweets, quotes and snippets. Given the proliferated speed at which these bits are published and publicized, it’s amazing to witness how quickly the industry’s reaction has gone from appalled to forgiving to looking forward to the designer’s imminent replacement at Dior. Given the industry’s propensity for forgetfulness⎯history has made fools of those who once condemned Coco Chanel for her involvement with the Nazis or Kate Moss for being caught with cocaine⎯we have no doubt that Galliano will be back at the top in no time. All references to the frankly horrifying severity of his remarks will vanish and whereas Chanel’s and Moss’s actions took years to do the same, Galliano’s have almost done so in a matter of 14 days. Meanwhile, as rumours swirl for a possible replacement by Riccardo Tisci, Alber Elbaz and Marc Jacobs, we take a look back at the quickest judgment turnarounds in fashion history.


Natalie Portman's Dior ad.

Shocked and appalled
February 25 – March 2, 2011

February 25: After initial reports of Galliano’s arrest, Dior was swift to suspend the designer, issuing a statement with these comments: “The House of Dior declares with the greatest firmness its policy of zero tolerance with regard to any anti-Semitic or racist statement or attitude” –Sidney Toledano [AFP]

February 28: Video of Galliano’s similarly anti-Semitic attack from the week prior is released. The facts are hard to face. [The Sun]

March 1: Condemnation by actress and Dior Parfums face Natalie Portman followed, stating: “As an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way. I hope, at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.” [WWD]

March 1: Socialite and muse Daphne Guinness tweets: “The infamous tapes of Galliano praising Hitler are beneath contempt. Anyone with any humanity should condemn these repulsive remarks.” [Twitter]

March 2: One of the select few who are seen as equals to Galliano, Karl Lagerfeld lashes out, condemning his remarks for their potentially harmful effects on the fashion industry as a whole: “I’m furious, if you want to know. I’m furious that it could happen, because the question is no longer even whether he really said it. The image has gone around the world. It’s a horrible image for fashion, because they think that every designer and everything in fashion is like this. This is what makes me crazy in that story. The thing is, we are a business world where, especially today, with the Internet, one has to be more careful than ever, especially if you are a publicly known person. You cannot go in the street and be drunk — there are things you cannot do. I’m furious with him because of the harm he did to LVMH and Bernard Arnault, who is a friend, and who supported him more than he supported any other designer in his group, because Dior is his favorite label. It’s as if he had his child hurt.” [Telegraph]

The finale at Dior. Photography by Keystone Press.

In defence of an icon
March 1 – March 9, 2011

March 1: Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani dedicates a post to Galliano on the magazine’s website, accusing the accusers for taking advantage of the designer’s notoriety: “I am against and I condemn any kind of racism or any behavior that shows disrespect toward any religion. But I would like to say that I’m just as disgusted by these people who saw what state John was in and took advantage of the situation by trading on his name and notoriety. It’s obvious that this was a bit inauthentic in the sense that if you are truly fighting with someone, you don’t have time to pick up a mobile phone, turn on the video GIGGLING and mockingly film what he is saying. Exploiting someone’s notoriety to have your own moment of fame is one of the most disgraceful and disloyal things one can do. Any famous person is open to attack or insult, and it’s difficult to defend him when, as in this case, the news goes around the world.” [Vogue Italia]

March 1: Stylist Patricia Field posts the message “IN PRAISE OF JOHN GALLIANO” on her Facebook page, telling WWD: “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.” [WWD]

March 2: Purple Magazine editor-in-chief Olivier Zahm writes an open love letter to Galliano on his blog, comparing the designer’s outbursts to those of the punk-rockers: “His drunken anti-Semitic tirade seems to be more of a desperate cry, a public suicide, a hardcore Brit-punk provocation, than an affirmation of any racist convictions. I mainly harbour a great sadness for John Galliano because this unfortunate incident (and once again, intolerable) marks for him a sudden end— one that is unworthy of his rare talent and his extraordinary sense of mise-en-scène.” [Purple Diary]

March 4: The fashion crowd flocks to Dior to witness Galliano’s last collection for the label. Audience clapping “wildly” during the finale, Toledano seems to be the only one who maintains his stance. [Nymag]

March 4: Model Jessica Stam walks in support of the designer, tweeting: “I believe every human being on this earth was created equal. I also don’t turn my back on my friends when they’re in a dark place.” [Twitter]

March 5: Fellow couturier Jean Paul Gaultier also questions the motives and legitimacy of the accusers: “They pronounce some words, but what is the context? The person (speaking to Galliano) seems very assured, knowing very well what she is doing.” [AFP]

March 7: Olivier Zahm goes on to report that models—including runway favourites Karlie Kloss and Magdalena Frackowiak walked Galliano’s eponymous label show for free: “Originally planned at the famous French brasserie La Coupole, the John Galliano F/W presentation was cancelled by LVMH… but Alexandre De Betak, who has been John Galliano’s longtime contributor, choreographing and art directing his shows for years, miraculously made it happen. He organized a small presentation with models who accepted to walk in the show for free…” [Purple Diary]

March 9: Galliano’s (Jewish) lawyer Stephane Zerbib speaks: “There are always those who preach, who say ‘how can a Jew defend anyone accused of such slurs,” he says. “My job as a lawyer is to guarantee that a person gets a fair trial and that his rights will be protected. I am wary of pre-judgment, that’s not my job.” [Ynet]

Riccardo Tisci walking the finale at his fall 2011 show. Photography by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images.

The show must go on
March 4 – present

March 4: The rumour mill starts to churn, with Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci being placed in the Galliano replacement role and Haider Ackermann taking on the label. [Vogue UK]

March 7: Alber Elbaz is thrown into the mix. Style.com tweets: “Not to add to the Dior rumor mill, but people in Paris are asking, why has the Lanvin team been in tears all day?” Whether it’s a simple twist of fate or otherwise, Elbaz is Jewish. [Twitter]

March 9: At his show for Louis Vuitton, all fingers point to Marc Jacobs⎯already an in-house talent at LVMH⎯as a potential replacement. Says Naomi Campbell to Suzy Menkes: “Of course Marc could do Dior — he can do anything. Perry Ellis and his own line” Jacobs is also… Jewish. [Nytimes]

March 10: Hint Magazine (the same online publication that broke news of Christophe Decarnin’s demise) reports that Tisci has officially signed on as Galliano’s replacement. We eagerly await the unfolding of the latest chapter in Christian Dior. [Hint Magazine]