Designer John Galliano is returning to fashion by way of Parisian design house Maison Martin Margiela, and much like the resistance with which he was met during his first several attempts to return to the industry, it seems there are still some concerns and some questions, most notably those highlighted by celebrated journalist Robin Givhan, who called attention to the possible ill-effects this appointment could have for Margiela and its stockists. She wrote: "The greater challenge for the industry — and for potential customers — is untangling the web of emotions that remain after Galliano’s sordid comments and his attempts at redemption." She continued on to citie Nancy Pearlstein, a Washington, D.C. stockist of the Margiela collection, "As a person, I find John Galliano disgusting," and of a in-store Margiela pop-up in her Georgetown store, she said: "I told [Margiela] I wanted it out of here.”
If we are going to continue to exile Galliano for a crime for which he has arguably paid the price (literally - in court fees and damages, as well as with a several month stretch in rehab, volunteer work, and public pleas for forgiveness), why are we turning a blind eye to other industry wrongs? For instance, why do we embrace Karl Lagerfeld, who continually comments on his hatred for "fat people" (and claims to not drink or do any drugs - thus, his statements were made while sober)? Coco Chanel, the closest thing to a saint in the fashion industry, was described as "a wretched human being. Anti-Semitic [and] homophobic," according to a piece by the New York Times. Yet, we cannot get enough of her. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have been found guilty by two separate judges and an independent fiscal agency for evading the Italian government of hundreds of millions of dollars. Very few people are shunning them. And Naomi Campbell, who was still assaulting people as of 2010, has barely stopped landing major gigs. Hypocritical, no?
You may recall that one of Galliano's first attempts at a comeback, a speaking engagement at Parsons The New School for Design last year, was anything but smooth. While the administration at Parsons and quite a bit of the fashion industry was thrilled by the news that the former Dior creative director would be leading a three-day master class at the esteemed design school, not everyone was quite as enthusiastic. The backlash over Galliano's three-day long teaching appointment was inevitable and very public. A petition was filed against the class. Editors, who will remain nameless, tweeted their disapproval. Fashion blogs commented on Galliano's questionable taste and "general creepiness." In fact, it was so controversial that the New School subsequently cancelled his speaking engagement, releasing a statement that "an agreement could not be reached with Mr. Galliano regarding the details of that forum, and so the program will not move forward."
The amusing (or better yet, the disappointing) aspect of anyone speaking out against Galliano then and now is the glaring hypocrisy; let’s not forget, we work in an industry that enables racism (hence, the fact that 90% of the models that walk in fashion week are white), anorexia, design piracy and unethical labor/manufacturing practices. However, just because no one is shouting out about these causes at cafes, does not mean they are any less real or dire.
Galliano's words, which he uttered while under the influence, were not appropriate. In fact, he made some very harsh comments, and naturally, offended just about anyone with a sense of human dignity. But, it is necessary for us, three years later (and on the heels of various rehabilitation efforts on Galliano's part), to put this in perspective before we get all holier-than-thou and self-righteous about Galliano's past acts and his return to fashion. Our goal should not be to prevent this man from pursuing a career. Oh, and as for those that are still citing that "Hasidic Jew" outfit, the guy normally dresses like a pirate. So, if you're really judging him by his sartorial choices, you should probably find a more thoughtful argument. Maybe we can try to accept the fact that he has gone to significant lengths (both public and private) to pay the price for his offenses and let him get back to work now. We have been quite lenient with Ms. Chanel and Karl, after all.
*This article is updated from one originally posted in April 2013.