News Analysis

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Aisling O’Connor: Anger at Galliano is so last year as glitterati fashion some forgiveness

Published 23/01/2013 | 17:00

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Does everyone deserve a second chance? The fashion set seems to think so. Last week 'Women's Wear Daily' (WWD) exclusively revealed that creative pariah John Galliano has been personally welcomed to the studio of fashion-design veteran Oscar De La Renta for three weeks in the run-up to New York Fashion Week.

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The forthcoming Fall 2013 womenswear shows in February would have marked a fifth season out in the cold for the disgraced British designer. Though his last collection walked the Paris catwalks just two years ago, he had just been arrested and suspended from his creative directorships at Christian Dior and his own-name label.

It is still hard to get one's head around Galliano's anti-Semitic rant at a woman outside a Parisian cafe.

Though the designer has unreservedly apologised, and blamed a trifecta of additions – alcohol, barbiturates and sleeping pills – some still find it odd that he would be welcomed back into the fold so soon after the incident, and indeed, his conviction.

Stripped of his French Legion of Honour, and given a suspended fine of €6,000, the real fallout appeared to be banishment from fashion.

Many fashion commentators bemoaned his behaviour, not just for its offence, but being robbed of his creative vision as a result of his firing from his two creative posts.

Therein would lie his salvation.

The former top designer at Givenchy is renowned as one of the greatest design talents of his generation. Supported and celebrated by ' Vogue' editor Anna Wintour from the early years of his career, his swashbuckling, pirate-like personal style was an extension of his theatrical aesthetic and hedonistic lifestyle.

Such is the allure of his talent, not long after his conviction in September 2011 he was commissioned by Kate Moss to create a gown for her wedding.

During spring and summer of the same year, there were separate sightings of Galliano lunching with Wintour at the Paris Ritz.

It is really no major shock that six months later this broken genius would get public absolution from one of Wintour's best friends in fashion. The sartorial establishment has a history of a short memory, and at worst turning a blind eye.

Kate Moss's career initially looked rocky after images emerged of her cocaine habit in 2005. Dropped by H&M, Chanel and Burberry, 'CoKate' went on to bag even more endorsements than before the scandal in the following years.

Karl Lagerfeld continues to rule the roost in Paris and Milan, despite his apparent 'foot-in-mouth' disease. Though initially there was a gasp at his comments about Oscar-nominee Adele being fat in 2012, the industry quickly went back to hanging on his every word, and sketch.

There was little hubbub about top New York fashion blogger Bryan Boy's recent 'thinspirational' tweet. It is baffling that this social networker, with 360,000 followers and a gig as a panellist on 'America's Next Top Model', was not scorned for his irresponsible direction to "make those bones appear", just a week after Israel enacted a law banning underweight models.

So Galliano is just one in a string of scandal-ridden icons who make the grade in coolness – in spite of socially unacceptable behaviour. Is the fashion industry propagating its reputation as an empty shell by reinstating him on his pedestal so soon? Or does the trade synonymous with sweatshops, eating disorders and substance abuse actually have a heart?

Disgraced but not discarded, Galliano told WWD that after many years of descent into the madness of addiction, he has been to rehab and has been sober for two years. He expresses his profo-und gratitude to Oscar De La Renta for the opportunity to re-enter the elite circle, while promising to make amends to those he has hurt.

" Life is about forgiveness," De La Renta told WWD last week, and a host of big-wigs would agree. Giorgio Armani, Stefano Gabbana of D&G and Nina Garcia of ' Project Runway' have all stated their support for ODLR's grand gesture.

'Forgive and forget' is the outward sentiment, but all eyes will be on De La Renta's runway come February for even the smallest sign of the hand of Galliano. The 80-year-old purveyor of American classic style will no doubt see a huge pay-off from his pardon.

Irish Independent

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