Breaking News in the World of Couture

7:57 PM

The breaking news is that John Galliano has been fired from Dior after a video surfaced of him giving anti-Semitic remarks in a drunken rant. Galliano reportedly intends to go to rehab and then fight back, but it seems highly unlikely that the company will retain him.

For me personally, I am extremely saddened and disappointed at this news. John Galliano's designs for Dior are the highlight of every fashion week for me. I always wait with baited breath for pictures to surface of his latest couture creations. His Dior couture so perfectly captures my own aesthetic and has been a big inspiration for my own creative work. Now not only will we loose his brilliant vision on the Dior label, but we now have to contend with the revelation that the man himself is anti-Semitic. And it's hard to know what to think.

I'm Jewish, and proud to be so, so it's especially hurtful to hear some one I admire so deeply insult a fundamental part of who I am. It's like when a good friend suddenly turns their back on you, I feel hurt and betrayed. And I know that this will forever change the way I view the man and subsequently his work.

I have always been a big advocate of separating the art from the personal life of the artist. Great composer Richard Wagner was an anti-Semite, which I do not approve of. But he was also an incredible artist, a genius, and his music is something that should continue to be performed and celebrated throughout the world. In short, love the music, hate the man. For a more recent example, the hoopla over Roman Polanski. He makes great films (I've never seen any but I hear they're quite good), but he's also a child rapist. It's OK to love his art, but just because he's a great artist does not mean his personal crimes should be condoned or forgiven. That's what drove me crazy about everyone rushing to his support recently, I feel like they confused the art and the person. Now with Galliano, I want to make the same separation. I will always love his designs, but I can't admire the man behind them anymore.

But the question then becomes, where is the line of separation between the person and the art? Art is inherently personal and individual. When I'm not being a fashion historian I'm an actress, a singer, a ballet dancer/choreographer, and a costume designer, so I'm constantly surrounded by and study creativity. And it doesn't matter if you're singing some one elses notes, saying some one elses words, or dancing or sewing a creation that is entirely your own. You put yourself into what you create. We can't not put ourselves into our creations, creativity just doesn't work that way. So while it's very easy to say "John Galliano is an artistic genius and while I love his clothes I think the man himself is awful", are not the clothes a part of the man himself? It's hard to connect his fashion with a drunken rant, but even if the incident is so separated from how he expresses himself via fashion, the two things both come from the same person, the same mind, the same soul.

So it's hard to know what to think. Art will inherently have a strong and deep connection to its creator, so what do you do when that creator turns out to be a racist? Do you try and separate the art from the personal beliefs, or take them in together? I think the thing to do is to take the creations with a grain of salt. I can't stop loving John Galliano's designs, they speak to me in a way no others do. But while I can still love them, I must now view them through a different lens. There is now another layer of meaning to the pieces. Because even if not a single anti-Semitic thought went into the creation of the Spring 2010 couture line, the fashion and the thoughts sprang from the same mind and therefore will always have some distant connection.

But I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. It just gives you one more thing to think about. How can a creation so beautiful and thoughts so horrible exist within the same man? Do certain pieces resonate differently when Galliano's racism is taken into consideration? Is it OK to enjoy something created by a person whose personal views disgust you? I think it is. We're all human, and we all have flaws. Now there is a new layer of meaning to Galliano's work. I don't excuse anti-Semitism, or any other prejudice, but I don't think its presence should cause us to discount art. It's still art, it's still expression. Instead, I think its presence should cause us to look at the art in a new and different way.

Of course this raises the question of where do we draw the line between art and not-art. The signs of the Westboro Baptist Church don't seem like art to me, but the people holding them could claim that their signs are art, or their protests performance art. There is no answer to this question. I think we all have to draw the line for ourselves, and yes, we all have to be a bit hypocritical based on our own personal beliefs and feelings. And that's OK.

So I can no longer respect or admire John Galliano the man. I am deeply offended by his remarks, and I have lost my trust in him. I don't think I can ever forgive him for what he said. But I won't discount his designs. I will always love his work for Dior, but I will now consider it through these new revelations about him as a person. Does this change the art? Yes. Does it mean his art must be thrown away? No.

You Might Also Like

3 comments

  1. He makes great films (I've never seen any but I hear they're quite good), but he's also a child rapist. It's OK to love his art, but just because he's a great artist does not mean his personal crimes should be condoned or forgiven. That's what drove me crazy about everyone rushing to his support recently, I feel like they confused the art and the person.

    I absolutely agree with you on this one! Just because he made good movies (none that I remember ever watching though) it doesn't excuse what he did to that girl (even if she forgave him) and the fact that he cowardly ran before he could be brought to justice.

    Now with Galliano, I want to make the same separation. I will always love his designs, but I can't admire the man behind them anymore.

    Absolutely. Thank you for the voice of sanity.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You pose interesting questions. I'm not exactly sure if I can make that separation. I can't afford Dior, so it's a moot point, but I wouldn't spend a dime that might end up in the pocket of a man like that -- although he is, without question, a great designer.

    Something to think about.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I go through the same struggle as you did, every time I come across a brilliant, creative mind who also happens to be a wife batterer, a child rapist, an anti-Semite or any other repulsive type of human being.

    Alas of course, this includes almost everybody of note throughout cultural history. Gauguin deserted his own wife and children, to "marry" 12 year old girls in the south sea islands. Dickens wouldn't allow his 10 children to ever talk to their overweight mother, once he married his extremely young and trim sister-in-law. Mel Gibson released anti-Semitic violence that was full of vitriol.

    Does that mean Dickens couldn't write brilliantly? Of course not. But I differ slightly on the conclusion. You quite honestly said "I don't excuse anti-Semitism, or any other prejudice, but I don't think its presence should cause us to discount art". I say appreciate the creativity in its own right, but never forget that the artist was a nasty child rapist (or whatever the crime was).

    ReplyDelete