As a private collection of the British fashion designer's pieces are spotlighted in the French capital, Euronews Culture asks if it's possible to separate a talent from their opinions.
A new exhibition, ‘10 Years of Galliano’, is on show in Paris, showcasing the private archive of fashion journalist and collector Alexander Fury.
Hosted at the salon of exclusive, luxury resale site Re-SEE, the collection features pieces from controversial British designer John Galliano's career, spanning 1992 to 2002.
High end resale sites have turned to similar collaborations recently, seeing them as a way to engage their audience while celebrating exceptional and rare fashion pieces.
The Re-SEE event reflects the ongoing interest in 1990s fashion, which has Gen Z fashionistas in a stylish chokehold.
Has Galliano been forgiven for his controversies?
Starting his career in the late ‘80s, Galliano had almost immediate success, with his eponymous label and being chosen as the designer for Kylie Minogue’s 1991 tour.
By 1995, he was appointed head designer of Givenchy, becoming the first British designer to head a French haute couture house.
He moved to Dior the following year and his career went from strength to strength.
Galliano was named British Designer of the Year four times and, in a 2004 poll for the BBC, he was named the fifth most influential person on British culture.
While still at the helm at Dior, in December 2010, Galliano was caught on camera making anti-Semitic comments towards a group of Jewish women in a Paris bar.
The incident came to light in February 2011, just before Paris Fashion Week. Dior swiftly responded by suspending Galliano, citing the "particularly odious character" of his behaviour and comments.
The fashion world had mixed reactions to the designer's words, with some expressing shock and disappointment, while others attributed it to intoxication rather than genuine anti-Semitism.
Natalie Portman condemned the remarks, calling them the “opposite of all that is beautiful" but Eva Green said, “I don't think he's antisemitic. I'm Jewish. I don't think he has anything against the Jews. I think it's more that he was probably a bit drunk”.
Galliano denied the allegations through his lawyer and launched a defamation lawsuit against those who accused him of anti-Semitism.
During a trial in Paris in 2011, Galliano's lawyer argued that his client's outbursts were the result of work-related stress and multiple addictions. He was later found guilty of making anti-Semitic remarks and received a sentence of €6,000 in suspended fines.
Welcomed back with open arms?
“Galliano underwent rehabilitation and sought to make amends for his actions”, fashion editor Karine Laudort tells Euronews Culture, “He apologised for his remarks, underwent counselling and therapy, and engaged in efforts to educate himself about the Holocaust and Jewish history”.
The incident involving John Galliano's anti-Semitic comments had far-reaching consequences for the renowned designer. It led to his dismissal from Dior and tarnished his reputation but after a two-year “exile” - his words - from the fashion industry, he was soon accepted back into the fold.
That didn’t sit easily however with some circles in the industry. “The question of whether it is right to forgive someone in such a situation is subjective and can vary depending on individual perspectives and values”, Laudort says, adding, “It is worth noting that forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetting or condoning the actions. It may be seen as an acknowledgement of personal growth, efforts at restitution, and an opportunity for redemption”.
In early 2013, he received an invitation from Oscar de la Renta to have a temporary residency at the design studio and showcase their Autumn 2013 ready-to-wear collection during New York Fashion Week. This opportunity, brokered by Vogue's Anna Wintour, was seen as a chance for Galliano to atone for his misdeeds.
His efforts to express his sorrow and apparent willingness to work on his rehabilitation earned him a measure of forgiveness from the fashion community. The Anti-Defamation League praised his attempts to make amends and rumours circulated, suggesting he might succeed Oscar de la Renta or take up a teaching post at Parsons in New York.
In October 2014, the multinational OTB Group announced that Galliano had joined Maison Margiela as its creative director, marking his return to a leading role in designing luxury fashion.
Shortly after, he presented the Outstanding Achievement Award to Anna Wintour at the British Fashion Awards, with Wintour wearing his first creation for Margiela.
The New York Times’ fashion director Vanessa Friedman said that choice was “an unambiguous fashion blessing" from Wintour.
Galliano's comeback continued as he showcased his first couture collection for Margiela during London Collections: Men in January 2015. Over time, he also made notable changes to his approach, announcing in 2018 that he would stop using fur in his collections after a meeting with Penélope Cruz and PETA's Dan Matthews.
While Galliano's return to the fashion industry was not without controversy, his relatively swift acceptance back into the heart of it demonstrated the industry's willingness to give second chances and acknowledge efforts towards redemption.
The debate continues to rage over whether or not it’s possible to separate talent from controversial views held by individuals. This was particularly true with the storm surrounding the late Karl Lagerfeld being honoured at this year's Met Gala due to some of his somewhat contentious beliefs. Similarly, Adidas was among a number of brands forced to cut ties with Kanye West after a public outcry over his anti-semetic remarks.
“Some argue that talent and personal beliefs should be considered separately”, Laudort says, “They believe that artistic or professional accomplishments can be appreciated and recognised independently of an individual's personal views or actions”.
With ‘cancel culture’ at an all time high, it’s perhaps unlikely these scenarios will disappear from the public consciousness any time soon.
“Ultimately, whether it is possible to separate talent from controversial views is a subjective judgement”, says Laudort, adding that it’s crucial not to put some creative talents on a pedestal and not others, adding, “I personally believe that if we decide to separate the art from the artist, then it should be applied across the board and not just with industry favourites”.