Galliano's trial points to darker side of fashion

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 July, 2011, 12:00am


And so the saga continues. The big drama during the latest men's fashion week was - surprise, surprise - John Galliano, now infamous for all the wrong reasons.

Galliano popped up during men's week for a one-day trial at a Paris court. He was charged with 'public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity'. The verdict is pending.

Galliano has already apologised profusely. This time in court, despite the screening of that famous video of him in le Perle bar, Galliano denied he held those views or had any recollection of voicing them. His lawyer blamed his outbursts on an addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs, and the severe pressures of his industry.

To complicate things even further, just a month before his trial, Galliano parted ways with his Jewish lawyer of seven years, Stephane Zerbib, who had previously spoken in his defence. Zerbib said that Galliano had never displayed any feelings of anti-Semitism in their years together. Zerbib was replaced by Aurelien Hamelle for the trial.

Recent seasons in fashion have certainly highlighted the pressures the industry can have on designers. Unfortunately, it's not all swilling champagne and hanging out with models. The anti-Semitic rant that led to the sacking from both Dior and his eponymous label (both owned by luxury giant LVMH) indeed shows Galliano acting strange and looking very intoxicated.

Since his very public demise, many media have voiced concerns about the pressures and demands of this fast-paced industry.

Balmain head designer Christophe Decarnin bowed out of his job that same season due to depression, Women's Wear Daily reported. Marc Jacobs was famously addicted a few years ago before he cleaned up his act. And who can forget the tragedy of Alexander McQueen's suicide - perhaps casting the longest shadow over the industry?

There are, of course, pressures. Designing with the exposure and pace of fashion today is not easy. Revenue-generating Resort and pre-autumn collections were added to autumn-winter and spring-summer ones. Then there are accessories, lots of accessories, and for some, the beautiful yet time-consuming slog of haute couture.

There is constant media attention, and the other pitfalls of fame. But the question is how you respond to these problems. Most of the designers mentioned succumbed to pressures by hurting themselves, and their deeds were not broadcast on YouTube videos. Tragedy takes many forms, but when one chooses to insult people like Galliano did, the individual still has to take a large part of the blame.

We cannot ignore the majority who remained disciplined and professional. They have the same pressures as Galliano. Design icons Karl Lagerfeld and Diane von Furstenberg, among others, have immediately weighed in to condemn Galliano's offensive behaviour (Lagerfeld was reportedly 'furious') as unacceptable and tarnishing the image of fashion around the world.

With public opinion still very much against him, it's unlikely that this disgraced yet talented designer will be getting much public sympathy for having a tough professional life. Not any time soon, anyway. But at least he has one famous friend who isn't afraid to show some support. Old chum Kate Moss wed Jamie Hince in the Cotswolds last week in a Galliano custom-made gown.