One of the most breathtaking and thrilling designers of his generation, John Galliano is now at the centre of a scandal threatening to destroy his career. As the fashion world agonisingly debates his fate, it is awful to watch a man, and his career, implode.
The days of private outbursts in public places have ended. While John Galliano praised Hitler and his gas chambers in a Parisian bar an obliging patron captured his horrific behaviour on videophone.
Arrested and charged with two racist and anti-semitic outbursts, Galliano’s reputation, entrenched in scandal, has been permanently tainted.
The world seems to have undergone a metamorphosis this year, and if there’s anything it has taught us is that things can fall apart rapidly: riots taking over England, economic crashes and destructive natural disasters, it took just six days for John Galliano’s 27-year career in fashion to come crashing down.
Shock? Outrage? Surely the two words which spring to most people’s minds when referring to Galliano’s act of self-destruction. But who could be shocked at his behaviour? Perhaps the question should be who would have expected any other outcome.
Galliano, profoundly talented, helped transform fashion from a business into a cult. But his lifestyle and career were unsustainable, built on a tripod of extravagance, excess and exhibitionism. A compulsory addict; whether to drugs, sex, alcohol or, intermittently, exercise, the suspicion is that his most damaging addiction was to his own public image.
Even his drug abuse was seen by some of the most influential people in fashion as an endearing quirk, like smoking a pipe, wearing a beret or writing with a quill - “obsessive indulgence is his thing”.
However, the Galliano in court was a world away from the larger than life character. Diminished and remorseful were two words better suited to the man in custody.
And there is no doubt that he deserves all the guilt and dishonor that befalls him. But whatever you say about John Galliano, it’s undeniably tragic to watch a gifted individual in free-fall. Was Galliano a victim of the fashion business? Or as in classical tragedies, can his downfall be explained as hubris or his tragic flaw? Perhaps we should be looking to his long life of hedonism for answers. We’ll probably never know. But one thing I’m certain of is that this is not the last of John Galliano.
Famous for its fickle nature, the fashion world demonstrates a remarkable leniency to its royalty - individuals who can sculpt a dress like Galliano or wear one like Kate Moss (who despite her drug-use and questionable public image is forgiven because she is beautiful).
It is inconceivable that a man of such exceptional vision and imagination, the personification of maverick London cool, will be relegated to history. But for now John Galliano, found guilty of the charges, has escaped with a suspended fine as punishment.