Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Less than five days after successfully taking his first steps towards a career comeback, defrocked Dior designer John Galliano is battling a public relations nightmare that could scotch any chance he has of making a fresh start.
The 52-year-old Gibraltar-born Brit, who was canned by the French fashion house in 2011 after he was videotaped making drunken anti-Semitic slurs to a couple in a Paris cafe, only emerged from exile three weeks ago when he popped up in the Manhattan atelier of Oscar de la Renta for a collaborative project that was unveiled when De la Renta previewed his Fall/Winter 2013 collection last Tuesday night.
While the beautifully executed line oozed classic Oscar, nobody missed the many signature Galliano touches. By rights, Galliano should have spent last Wednesday revelling in the positive reviews received for his contribution – not to mention the giddy buzz that he is in line for a full-time gig with the Seventh Avenue kingpin.
Instead, within 12 hours Galliano was fighting off claims that he had once again offended the Orthodox Jewish community – this time by the bizarre choice of clothes he wore to attend Tuesday's show. To some, the large round hat he wore over his long, curled sideburns, his black frock coat and cropped trousers looked suspiciously like traditional Hasidic attire – a sentiment characterised by the front page of last Wednesday's New York Post as "JEW-BASH DESIGNER'S COSTUME MOCKS FAITHFUL".
The fact that the habitually flamboyant designer was kitted out in a Steven Jones hat, Yohji Yamamoto trousers, a Brooks Brothers shirt and Dolce & Gabbana waistcoat ("In other words – fashionable," his publicist explained to Women's Wear Daily) isn't cutting much slack with the industry elite. Nor is the surprisingly spirited defence that was issued by the Anti-Defamation League ("Hasidim do not wear fedora hats, pinstripe pants, blue jackets or an ascot tie.")
As Women's Wear Daily said last Thursday: "Consciously or not, when Galliano got dressed on Tuesday, he set himself up for a controversy. Even accepting that his intent and the outfit itself had nothing to do with Hasidic dress, the Post's photo makes a convincing case otherwise. Galliano wants back into mainstream fashion. Displays of apparent tone-deafness could give pause to potential employers or backers."
In a video interview before the furore erupted, De la Renta appeared to fluff rumours that Galliano's residency might be extended. "If John wanted to come back, I would be happy to have him," said the 80-year-old designer who is recovering from a recent bout with an unspecified cancer.
Showing the steel (and smarts) that has allowed him reign for 50 years, De la Renta had given his protege one piece of advice: "I told him, if he wants to be in America you cannot be like Greta Garbo. At one point you have to face the music and explain your position." Now might be just the right time for Galliano to start talking.
First lady so in love with Wu
The sartorial message transmitted by Michelle Obama at last week's state of the union address has also ruffled feathers among NYC's fashion flock, many of whom are vexed that she isn't spreading the love more evenly when it comes to choosing the clothes she wears for official prime-time events.
Much to the chagrin of serious designer types vying for the cachet of dressing the first lady, Mrs Obama once again stepped out wearing Jason Wu – the 30-year-old Taiwanese-born designer who shot to fame in 2009 after she wore his frothy white one-shoulder gown to her husband's inaugural ball. Wu recently repeated the coup when Mrs Obama surprised everyone by wearing his ruby-red chiffon and velvet gown at the commander-in-chief's inauguration ball in January.
Her decision to wear Wu yet again last Tuesday night – this time, a sleeveless ox-blood tweed empire-waist dress, accessorised with a lucite Alexis Bittar flower pin – is now leading to speculation that Mrs Obama may deviate from her first-term practice of wearing multiple labels and instead employ Wu as her go-to dresser, a possibility that isn't exactly going down well with anyone other than the elated Wu.
Damon shows feminine side
Matt Damon is man enough to admit he goes to fashion shows to ogle the clothes – not the models. But the self-effacing action star was quick to point out that he and wife Luciana Barroso scored front-row seats to last Wednesday's Naeem Khan show because they are friends with the Indian designer and not because they carry any clout on the award-show circuit.
"Naeem is my friend and we go on vacation together, and I've known him for a few years now," Damon said after the presentation. "He's such a wonderful guy. Luckily, we love his clothes too, because that would be really tough. . ."
Damon, who seemed particularly taken by a second-skin gold beaded gown, said that his new passion for fashion might owe something to his experience filming the upcoming HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra, in which he plays the younger boyfriend of Michael Douglas's Liberace. "Yes," he chuckled, "I like the beaded dresses, myself. They are the most comfortable."
Fashion snobs in Kim snub
Snobbishness is nothing new in the fashion world, but boldly calling it is. And that's precisely what Nicola Formichetti (the styling designer behind Mugler and Lady Gaga) did last week when he dished about his experience of dressing Kim Kardashian for the latest issue of Elle magazine.
His biggest challenge, he revealed, was that "People wouldn't lend me the clothes. . . But that's fashion snobbery."
While Formichetti resisted the temptation to name those who felt outfitting the headline-grabbing reality star was beneath them, the publication of his story offers concrete clues by the simple process of elimination.
Among the pieces featured in the layout are Tom Ford, Sister by Sibling, David Yurman, Oscar de la Renta, Giusseppe Zanotti, Viktor & Rolf and Roberto Cavalli.