Fashion may be too quick to stand by the old adage “forgive and forget”. It has only been three years since John Galliano was shamefully ousted from Christian Dior after a video of an anti-Semitic tirade he made was unearthed. The famed British designer went from one of the most successful faces of fashion to a reviled figure who Dior couldn’t distance itself from quick enough.
Despite Galliano’s best attempts to reinsert himself in the scene, he has remained on the outskirts. A workshop that he was scheduled to lead at Parsons last year was called off after it came to light that Galliano was not willing to comply with the New York design school’s wish for him to conduct a forum about the effect of his remarks on his career. Galliano was thrown a bone by Oscar de la Renta who allowed him to design a collection of dresses for his New York Fashion Week show last year, but he has still largely been ostracized.
Galliano’s condemnation to the periphery was alleviated on Oct. 6, when Maison Martin Margiela announced that he would be taking over as art director. The house’s namesake had retired in 2009 and had since been headed by a collective of unnamed designers. Of the appointment, Renzo Rosso, president of Margiela’s parent company, had this to say: “Margiela is ready for a new charismatic creative soul ... John Galliano is one of the greatest, undisputed talents of all time – a unique, exceptional couturier for a Maison that al- ways challenged and innovated the world of fashion.”
I’m all for a progressive mindset, but appointing a known anti-Semite may be challenging the world of fashion in the wrong way. Galliano apologized for his conduct in an interview last summer saying, “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 realize I was so angry and so discontented with myself that I just said the most spiteful thing I could.”
Galliano apologized, but there’s really no coming back from praising Hitler. It’s too bad that an esteemed house like Margiela felt the need to resort to Galliano, for not only will he bring the wrong kinds of scrutiny to an already stressful operation, but he’ll bring his penchant for heavy-handed theatrical designs to a normally avant-garde couture line.
As LL Cool J said in “Mama Said Knock You Out,” don’t call it a comeback. Instead, usher Galliano out.