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Second Act of John Galliano commences


John Galliano

John Galliano

John Galliano

An infamous conversation at Cafe La Perle in Paris, February 24, 2011 . . .

Woman: "Are you blond?"

Man: "No. But I love Hitler. People like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be fucking gassed, and fucking dead."

Woman: "Oh, my God! Do you have a problem?"

Man: "With you? You're ugly."

Woman: "With all people. You don't like peace? You don't want peace in the world?"

Man: "Not with people that are ugly."

Woman: "Where are you from?"

Man: "Your asshole."

The vile man spewing these words of nauseating anti-Semitic hatred was, of course, John Galliano - one of the most feted fashion designers of the last 20 years.

The guillotine fell quickly on Galliano's head, as it had to. There was no alternative, moral or otherwise. His very public fall from grace was complete on March 1 of the same year when he was fired from his lofty position as creative director of Christian Dior as the video of his indefensible racism went viral.

Galliano's redemption has been a long, painful one for the Gibraltar-born British provocateur. Some might argue that he doesn't deserve to be redeemed, or forgiven, for what he said in that cafe in the Marais district. However, there were some in the fashion fold who decided to stand by him.

Writing at the time of Galliano's dismissal by Dior, Julie Burchill, not universally known for her compassionate views, excoriated what she called the fashion fools: "It is telling that whereas many actors - whom we consider preening ponces - turned their backs in revulsion on Mel Gibson when he drunkenly accused the Jews of 'being responsible for all the wars', the fashion crowd rallied around John Galliano like so many mother hens protecting an errant chick, when he came out with his far worse racist rant.

"To refresh you, Galliano's barrage of abuse at a couple in a Parisian bar included: 'your dirty Jewish face. [Vivienne] Westwood's latest thoughts on Galliano? "He couldn't be a sweeter person." That's good - maybe she can send him some of her famous swastika T-shirts to cheer the poor oofums up."

Four years on, John has gone to rehab in Arizona, and apologised for his outburst.

"It's the worst thing I have said in my life, but I didn't mean it. I have been trying to find out why that anger was directed at this race. I now realise I was so fucking angry and so discontent with myself that I just said the most spiteful thing I could," Galliano told Vanity Fair, before adding of his drink and drug addictions: "I was going to end up in a mental asylum or six feet under."

The designer added that his steps to atonement included meeting with Jewish leaders and reading books on the Holocaust and Jewish history.

Whatever about atonement, perhaps the most difficult part of John Galliano's so-called redemption begins tomorrow in London . . .

He is due to show his couture collection for Maison Martin Margiela. It is his first fashion showcase since he was sacked by Dior. His high-profile supporters like Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss (Galliano made Kate's wedding dress in July, 2011) and Anna Wintour are expected to be in the front row in London. (Last month, Galliano presented Wintour - one of the fashion world's most influential people as editor of US Vogue for almost three decades - with the British Fashion Council's Outstanding Achievement Award. Wintour, who was one of Galliano's earliest supporters, was spotted in July 2012 dining with the disgraced designer at the Ritz in Paris.)

Not everybody is delighted by Galliano's Second Act.

A blog by The Reference Council called 'Galliano's Return Sends a Vile Message: Racism is OK' lambasted Galliano and the fashion world: "Galliano has since been forgiven by the fashion community and, in subsequent commentary, it has been painted as some sort of one-off slip of the tongue.

"And who hasn't advocated the gassing of the Jews when they're stressed?" it wrote scathingly.

"Monday will communicate a wider message to those not enamoured with the view that fashion holds a greater power - the message that we are aloof, uncaring of wider issues and ready to ignore any sense of morality at the drop of a lace-embellished hat. For each person that stands and applauds Galliano's inevitably tearful bow on Monday, the cultural gravitas of the discipline is diminished in the eyes of the wider world."

Top Irish fashion designer Paul Costelloe, who is based in London, believes that Galliano "has been forgiven by the major people in the fashion world. I don't think that they ever stepped away from him altogether. He is a very talented designer. Everyone deserves a second chance. And we all make mistakes. So, God, I wish him well."

Asked whether he would be attending tomorrow, Paul laughed and said: "No, I'm not in that league. I'm a very humble Irish designer making a living in London."

Another top Irish fashion designer, who didn't want to be named, said: "I'm not a fan and I never was. I consider his new appointment at Margiela odd - and his anti-Semitic rant a disgrace."

Fashion guru and chairman of Aurora Ireland Ian Galvin took a more sympathetic view. "Galliano has paid a big price and learnt a big lesson in life. Hopefully he has come out the other end, both physically and spiritually. He has dealt with his demons. Now it's time to move on."

Sunday Independent