Reactions from the fashion industry to John Galliano's firing by Christian Dior are still rolling in. Which is hardly surprising, considering Galliano's prominence. Galliano oversaw the creative direction of a fashion house — and a global luxury brand — that last year realized revenues of over $28 billion.
Not bad for a moribund distressed asset Bernard Arnault picked up for a single French franc at a bankruptcy auction in 1984. Christian Dior is now one of the jewels in parent company Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy's crown. It sells products in every category from haute couture to handbags, perfume to footwear, cosmetics to men's suits. Galliano's exquisite design sense and knack for eye-catching ad campaigns are largely responsible for Dior's enviable position in the market. His generally dazzling couture shows — and the red carpets his most extravagant creations regularly find their way to — are about the most effective loss-leaders around.
But whatever one's special skills, being the subject of two separate criminal complaints for hurling racial abuse at strangers in bars, and being filmed talking about how much you like Hitler, is hardly behavior that the fashion industry can tolerate.
And so Christian Dior's executive leadership — notably C.E.O. Sidney Toledano — moved swiftly to distance itself from its creative director in the wake of his arrest, and, earlier today, to fire him. Fashion has long proven its willingness to turn a blind eye to a variety of behaviors that are, to many observers, problematic: anything from drug abuse to sexual misconduct to a penchant for manhandling one's underlings can be written off as the personal quirks of an artist in hot pursuit of fashion's cherished, self-defined quest to épater la bourgeoisie.
So it was nice, in a way, to receive confirmation this week that overt racism — and anti-Semitism, in an industry that has always counted many prominent Jewish members, both on its creative and its business side — is beyond even fashion's pale. Few people are even bothering to offer the customary, cursory defenses. (Vogue Italia's Franca Sozzani waved the flag, but has already had to walk back from some of her statements.) Of course, the fact that Galliano's behavior was so indefensible — that video, two separate criminal complaints — so persistent, and so easily revealed, rather leaves one to wonder how many people, in the industry and outside it, must have heard him give his pathetic little speech about Hitler over the years, and decided to remain silent about it.
The fate of Galliano's last collection for Dior — the one that will walk in Paris on Friday — is uncertain. In having cut Galliano loose so completely and so quickly, Toledano and Arnault are no doubt banking on being able to salvage the good name of the brand, but who will want to shoot and buy clothing made by a man who's now more famous for talking about which people should be gassed than for his command of the bias cut?
The future of Galliano's own namesake label, which is backed by LVMH, is easier to predict: it will almost certainly founder. LVMH will end that relationship, and it's hard to imagine the John Galliano brand either surviving on the merits of its own sales (LVMH only breaks out sales results for its most profitable brands, and it rarely if ever mentions the John Galliano label in its reports, which rather leads me to believe that sales are poor, and that the brand was always supported by LVMH as a favor to the high-profile designer who made Dior so much money, and little more), or attracting new backers in the current climate. Galliano has made himself unemployable, and he has only himself to blame.