“I love Hitler, and people like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would be … gassed and … dead.” This is was the drunken man sitting beside you is saying. You’re simply at a café in Paris, doing what you normally do, and one of the most famous Creative Directors in the world has just insulted you, to your very core. And he doesn’t stop at that. He ends his tirade of prejudiced remarks by saying. “You are really ugly.” Ten years ago, this story would have ended up in a tabloid, likely chalked up to hearsay. Today, it’s videotaped and uploaded onto YouTube within 5 minutes, for the whole world to bear witness. This is the story of how John Galliano was dismissed from The House of Dior.
John Galliano is a British fashion designer, known for his flamboyant styles and dramatic displays on the runway. His very first show ever was in 1989, for Paris Fashion Week. He was snapped up a few years later and invited to The House of Dior. He had his first show there, on the label’s 50th anniversary, January 20, 1997. Since then, his popularity skyrocketed and his designs have been worn for years by Hollywood’s most famous personalities.
February 25th, 2011, Dior announced that Galliano was suspended due to his arrest for having uttered racist, anti-Semitic remarks, at a local Paris café. A video was released online, right before Paris Fashion Week, 22 years after his very first show, of him, in a ridiculously drunken state, spewing anti-Semitic remarks to a group of Italian women. “I love Hitler, and people like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would be … gassed and … dead.” is exactly what he is heard saying in the video that quite possibly has ruined his career.
Over the centuries, humans have decided there are certain things that should ‘not be discussed’ in public, especially in negative connotations, subjects such as religion and politics. But it takes things up a notch the moment the words ‘Nazi’ or ‘Hitler’ are involved. Anti-Semitic remarks are punishable in a court of law, giving the prosecuted up to six months in jail. Most of those who’ve been convicted of making anti-Semitic remarks are given a suspended sentence but speaking out of terms about being pro-Nazi is certainly not something that is tolerated by society. Based on one of the world’s most horrific events in time, society has come to think of the mention of the Holocaust as a very touchy subject and it is not taken lightly. The reason this has got everyone’s tail feathers rustling is because Galliano is supposed to be an Ambassador of the House of Dior, a worldly renowned fashion icon. Not to compare the House of Dior to royalty or anything but Dior’s president and chief executive officer was quoted saying, ‘“I condemn most firmly the statements made by John Galliano which are total contradiction with the essential values that have always been defended by the House of Christian Dior.” one of the essential values being respect.
Not only did Dior himself call Galliano’s behavior, ‘odious’, but Natalie Portman spoke out and has denounced the House of Dior on account of these remarks. Taking personal offense, Natalie Portman is an Academy Award winning, Jewish actor, who is the face of Dior perfume. She was quoted in the New York Times saying she would no longer be affiliated with anything Galliano did. Her response? “I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today. In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way. I hope at the very least, these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful.”
For the last 15 years, John Galliano has been the creative director of Dior’s work. He is known as the ‘energizer’ of the luxury label with his Avant-garde approach and unique style. This said though, it’s not feared that the House of Dior will actually be hurt by Galliano’s actions. Dior took the appropriate action and dismissed his creative director, regardless of whether it hurt his company or not. The head of the Parisian fashion trade show, Muriel Piaser, said this about recent events, “Dior sells everywhere around the world. Fashion sells dreams but it also involves respecting certain ethical codes.” It is certain that even if the House of Dior does find itself losing certain clientele that it will bounce back, full force. There was a noticeable difference though, this year, at the Grammys and the Oscars as those who would usually wear Dior gowns were opting for other varieties. There were only two Dior gowns seen on the red carpet this year, versus dozens in past years.
Galliano’s lawyer, Stephane Zerbib, is standing behind his client’s defense saying that Galliano did not utter these anti-Semitic remarks but when these accusations surfaced, more accusations seemed to come out of the woodwork. Another woman came forward with allegations of Galliano’s ‘odious behavior’ dating back to last October but Zerbib dismissed the accuser quickly stating she should have come forward earlier than now if the event happened in October.
At the time I started writing this essay about this, it had become a ‘he said, she said’ kind of affair as the chauffeur and an employee of La Perle both testified that they had heard no offensive remarks coming from Galliano. The strange thing is though, if no remarks were made and Galliano is innocent, how did someone get video proof of him slurring his words and uttering the most putrid of lines? That’s my question.
Let this be a lesson to us all, regardless of Galliano’s fate. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do for a living. In this day and age, we have a social rule that exists globally and that is to live life, respectfully of others and their heritage. We don’t have to get along with everyone but we must be tolerant and accept the differences that make humankind…human. There is no tolerance for abusive speech in any way, shape or form and we should all be conscious because someone, somewhere out there is always watching and listening, waiting to post it online.