How fashion forgave John Galliano
"I love Hitler … people like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be fucking gassed."
This is the line, spoken just over two years ago by John Galliano in a Parisian bar, that looked like it might destroy the career of one of fashion's most enduring and dazzling talents.
Galliano had just been arrested in February 2011 for an alleged anti-semitic tirade in the same bar, La Perle, when the video of him professing his love for Hitler, filmed in December 2010, was published on the Sun's website.
An allegation of anti-semitism might have been survivable for Galliano, but when the video was published he, and everyone else in the fashion world, knew it was over. For the time being.
Because even though the backlash against Galliano was instantaneous and soaked with disgust, few truly thought he would be gone for ever, and it was announced today that Galliano will be doing a three-week residency with New York designer Oscar de la Renta. It may well be the poshest and most high-profile work experience placement of all time.
At the time of the scandal, Jewish people in the fashion industry – and there are plenty – reacted with particular horror. Natalie Portman, who then had a contract with Dior, released a statement voicing her "disgust", effectively putting the nail into Galliano's career at the house.
But while the fashion world may have a ridiculously narrow view about what constitutes an acceptable physicality on a woman, it is extremely forgiving when it comes to flaws among its own.
Even before he was found guilty of making anti-semitic remarks by a French court and fined €6 000 in September 2011, he had already been accepted back into the fashion court to a certain degree when he was given the fashion commission of the year: designing Kate Moss's wedding dress in the summer of 2011.
It should be noted, not all Jewish people in the fashion business were quite so offended by Galliano. The reliably ridiculous stylist Patricia Field insisted the whole thing was a "farce" and should be compared to Mel Brooks' Springtime for Hitler, suggesting Field is unable to distinguish between satire and a drunken rant.
Galliano, though, has been reportedly deeply mortified, and silent. In the two years since he has been entirely absent from the spotlight in which he once delighted; he has gone through treatment for his longstanding problem with alcohol; he has been in touch with the Anti-Defamation League. According to sources in the fashion industry, he has expressed personal apologies to Jewish people who know and work with him.
Return from exile
US Vogue editor Anna Wintour has been reportedly keen for Galliano to return for some time and it is to Galliano's credit that he has waited until now. Some may argue that two years' exile is not long enough to atone for such abhorrent remarks, but it's not about the time, it's the depth of feeling.
As Lance Armstrong reminded the world last night, a man can go on TV and apologise for hours while sitting opposite Oprah Winfrey – but if he doesn't take full responsibility for his actions and instead says he is merely "flawed", it's hard to take his apology too seriously. Galliano has issued several statements expressing his sorrow and self-disgust.
To freeze him out of his industry for ever when he has expressed so much contrition would be unjust – especially when criticising him for his own intolerant remarks. It's time to, if not welcome him back, at least accept him back. – guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013