Saturday, 5 March 2011

Beauty from an ugly source?

As the fashion world reels from Galliano's fall from grace (Womens Wear Daily editor likened it to the shock of McQueen's suicide) and the top job is suddenly up for grabs, another question emerges - can beauty be gleaned from an ugly source?

Despite stylist Patricia Field's enterprising defence - that Galliano was simply exhibiting his trademark showmanship and was taken too literally, the video leaked by The Sun exposes a wine-swilling Galliano slurring, "I love Hitler ... People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be fucking gassed." When the woman recording him asks if he has a problem, he responds, "With you. You're ugly." She then asks where he's from, and he says, "Your asshole."

Natalie Portman, face of Dior Cherie perfume, her profile bigger than ever after her recent Oscar win, gave Dior an ultimatum. Dior dutifully sacked their golden goose. There is no doubt that Galliano refreshed the label and showed dazzling flair during his 15 year stint. Clearly the fashion world were keen to believe the allegations were defamatory, not least because Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano is himself jewish. But after the video footage, any hope was lost. Karl Lagerfield also made his disdain clear: ‘The image is around the world. It is a horrible image of fashion because they think every designer and everything in fashion is like this.’ And although the cynical may view Lagerfeld's attack as an opportunity to square up to his biggest rival Dior, the facts do remain. As he explained, in an internet age, bad publicity goes viral and is not easily forgotten.

The recent bloggers' campaign against MAC and Rodarte's apparent capitalisation of a raw theme seemed to imply beauty could not be invited on just any terms. In her statement, Natalie Portman made the rather pious observation, "I hope these terrible comments remind us to reflect and act upon combating these still-existing prejudices that are the opposite of all that is beautiful." But, much like good music by hedonists, racists or worse; or good art by drunks, wife-beaters or worse, can we accept Galliano's stunning designs and ignore the designer?

At the Oscars, Dior had a very low profile - notably worn only by Nicole Kidman and Sharon Stone.

Open racism is not acceptable, therefore those in the public eye are quick to sever it like gangrene. And if beauty must be a victim, so be it. It will take years for this to tarnish and the beauty of Dior's recent collections to be seen once again through the dirt. Perhaps if rumours are true, Galliano will design Kate Moss' wedding dress and all will be forgiven. But Moss, who surely should be one to empathise with embarrassing videos and sackings, will probably not want this role. Fashion is fickle, beauty is transient, but moral outrage is tenacious.

What are your thoughts - is beauty an independent quality, or is it inextricably connected to its creator?

PS. Interestingly, one of the most immediate ways for the final Galliano Dior collection to be distanced from its designer was the absence of the flamboyant makeup we have come to expect from his shows.

*Poll added up there!


  1. My first thought when I heard Galliano's comments was just how crazy it was. Apparently he was insulting some Italian women, and he with a name like "Galliano"? And then to use anti-Semitic remarks as his insult? Where was all that hate coming from?

    I always get a sinking feeling when I hear about celebrities making bigoted remarks. For me, it does take away from the beauty of their creations. I can't separate the two in my mind.

    I did love the way the recent Dior runway show ended, with the whole staff coming out on the stage in their white coats. It's a good reminder about the people who bring these creations to life. I think it might not be a bad idea for more fashion houses to give credit to their employees in that way.

  2. To be honest I haven't seen the recent Dior collections, but I will assume they are beautiful. The fact that he said/thinks such disgusting things does not take away from the fact that he creates beautiful things. However I think Dior are completely right in sacking him. He may still be good at his job but he would have let the brand down horribly by their association with him had they kept him. Also it shows that they think, no matter how talented he may be, it's not acceptanble behaviour. Also this may be just personal but if I saw his clothing, no matter how beautiful it was, it would be tainted by association, i wouldn't want to wear something that such a nasty mind had created.

  3. @Ms. M Yes it was quite moving hearing the speech and then seeing all the behind the scenes workers. There was a really amazing BBC documetary called The House of Chanel or something like that, it made the creations all that more human. This was a similar way to remind everyone that it is "teamwork" rather than one man's genius. Possibly. And yes there are media stories filtering through that Galliano has jewish blood, or immigrant roots, etc,etc but it strikes me as again, damage limitation. It is indeed very sad when a celebrity shows up as a bad egg!

    @Lillian Funny Face
    Well if you wouldn't buy it, that probably is the bottom line. I reckon many would agree with you, and it could harm Dior's sale figures for a while...


  4. Hi Gail, I can easily separate the designer from his creations. I liken it to my respect for the talent of Michael Jackson. Although I didn't necessarily agree with his lifestyle and his choices, I can still appreciate the talent and artist creations. However, people have long memories, so Dior took the only action they could to salvage their brand in the market. They'll launch a new face and be back stronger than ever.

  5. @MsSparkleArkle yes my thoughts precisely! xx