We aren’t too keen on hitting a man when he’s down, but the latest news on John Galliano’s firing from Christian Dior just solidified the quick narrative drama of the whole affair and made it impossible to ignore. Celebrities fall from the farthest heights regularly, but something about the Galliano debacle, in which he was videoed making drunken anti-semitic statements, seems razor-fast and extra tragic like a guillotine. We don’t feel bad for him, no way. He said fucked up things. But we couldn’t help being obsessed by the story’s arc, that Galliano, a bigot in 2011 with a glass of wine, was probably once a young kid who loved fashion, a Bohemian who treated clothes the same way a painter treats hue and someone we might know and see around town. That hopeful supposition bears the starkest contrast to the monster in that grainy, cheap YouTube clip. How did it get to this point?
The fashion industry has always been a business, but the last twenty years have made it pretty disgusting. Some European houses have grown within a corporate hierarchy that elevates luxury for luxury’s sake. The same beasts that have turned Dior, Burberry and Louis Vuitton into gilded-age palaces with moats around the gates, those suited businessmen in the front row of the shows that just love selling handbags, were the same ones who fired Galliano so fast. And they were right to do so, but we can’t help but feel like they’re also at the Midas-touched root of the problem. Our experience of fashion in New York has never been about luxury or gold or even spectacle but about real people working hard to make real clothes. But is there any of that humanity left at those global fashion houses?
The bigger and more inflated with self-importance that they become, the more holographic and unrelatable to real communities they become. That Galliano’s Hitler-rant feels so random and inhumane, as if he hadn’t even spoken to regular people in a long while, seems not like a coincidence, but perhaps a symptom of an industry that’s conspired to separate true artists from art, to sell at any cost. Galliano has clearly lost his way. He sounded more like a 1940s Vichy baron than a man who lives in 2011. Steroid branding has put designers in Ivory Towers that are impossible to get down from, unless, as Galliano found out this week, they’re pushed quickly out the window.