I love fashion even though I do not look like a person that loves fashion. I have always looked at fashion magazines such as Vogue and love going through high end fashion shops. I do not want most of the clothes I see. I would look ridiculous in them. It would be a travesty of what the designer had in mind! I just love that humans come up with this stuff. I suppose it is to do with loving beauty. I think the Taj Mahal is beautiful. I do not want to live there or own it or have my own place look like it. That would look terrible. So on Tuesday night two things conflated that brought me out to a talk. One was fashion and the other was Torah.
John Galliano, as you probably know, is a brilliant fashion designer. Now, unlike the TV programme ‘Dragon’s Den’, I do not think that because you are successful in one field you will be able to comment on other fields. In the TV programme people who are successful in their business advise others. However, most of the panel have also been very unsuccessful too. They have had ideas and businesses collapse. As my father used to say, ‘not every day is yom tov’ (Not every day is a great day/not everyday goes your way).
John Galliano is a brilliant fashion designer. He is not a brilliant person. I shan’t be asking him about philosophy or theology or science. He fell from grace quite publicly by having a drunken anti-Semitic rant in Paris a few years ago. It got recorded on a mobile phone. It was not his only anti-Semitic drunken rant. He was the head designer at Dior. Quite rightly, they sacked him. He is not above the law or separate from it.
Last night, three synagogues in central London had a talk about clothes and he was one of the speakers. Rabbi Marcus had been instrumental in his, shall we say, rehabilitation. The Rabbi and Galliano had been meeting and talking about Judaism and being a Jew, a complex set of issues that most Jews do not have a handle on, let alone a person who has anti-Semitic rants. So I went along to hear. Fashion and Torah. Some of my favourite things together. Fab.
It had been set up as some talks first and then a panel discussion with him, Galliano. I went to a talk by Maureen Kendler which was entitled ‘A Biblical what not to wear’. It was a great talk. She talked about how we use clothes either to show how we are feeling, to show our roles in society or to deceive. She used incidents in the Bible to illustrate this and how deceptive they can be. Clothes as signifiers. It was very funny and insightful. She said even when you say you are not interested in clothes, you just throw something on, that too is saying something about how you see clothing. Also, when people disguise themselves in stories, for instance the king dressing as a pauper and going out among his people, it always works! Nobody ever says in those stories ‘you remind me of the king’! Clothes as deception. Great stuff from a great speaker.
The panel discussions was less great. Rabbi Marcus gave a very good opening talk on forgiveness. It set a wonderful tone. Unfortunately, it was not kept up and a great opportunity for an insight into a creative mind was also not realised. I wanted to know what fuels his ideas, how much he reacts to what is around him, how he can change styles/houses from Dior to Maison Margiela, what clothes mean for him, how he decides what to wear, and things of that nature. However, what has prompted me to write this post was to do with blame, rather than the fashion for which he is known and an expert.
Galliano spoke after the Rabbi. He said that he was an alcoholic and an addict. I think that he thought being an addict would excuse his behaviour. He said that after his on camera outburst he had been forced to withdraw (he was sacked from his job at Dior) and had time to reflect on his crazy work load and life. He had returned to God. I was intrigued by his move to a spiritual life and that he now realised he was not in charge, God was. But I found it a bit disingenuous. I don’t know if he had now decided it was all to do with God, that God was responsible for his choices. I think that may have been at the root of what he was saying. I thought that was very disingenuous, first addiction, now God.
You see, I didn’t hear an apology for being a racist. I heard an acceptance, by him and by the Rabbi, of his having said racist comments . But what really annoyed me was that he blamed the alcohol. Naughty wine. But the wine didn’t have those thoughts. The words didn’t come from the wine into his mouth. They can from his thoughts, his brain, into his mouth. The bottle did not make him believe in faries, or demons or that Jews are to blame. The wine merely reduced the filter, the barrier between what we thinks and what we says. The wine made him less inhibited. He said what he thought. Those thoughts were in him, not in the bottle. He blamed the wine. He needed to blame himself. Until you take responsibility for your own feelings and actions you cannot resolve them, you cannot grow up, you are stuck blaming others.
Many years ago I heard a scientist from Ghana talking about environmental issues. He said in Africa they are still blaming the West and slavery and that until Africa owned its own problems it would never grow up and deal with its issues and problems. I thought this a very brave statement. Of course what the West did was terrible. There is still slavery in Africa and the Africans need to own that. Britain has said sorry (Belgian and Spain haven’t). Terrible things were done. But you cannot live like that. A mere 60 years ago the Holocaust happened and the Germans (and others) were responsible. However, Jews and Israel are living now. They talk with Germany and Germans. They do not assume all Germans are Hitler. They have built new homes and wear new clothes and start new lives and new jobs. They do not say when a business fails or they fail an exam or a relationship breaks up ‘it is the fault of the Nazis’. That would give Hitler more power than he should ever have. When you fail your exams it is you that failed or caused you to fail. Not the whites, Not the blacks, Not the Jews.
Galliano needs to look a lot deeper into himself to find out where his racist stupid comes from and stop blaming the wine. In vino veritas. He said what he thought. Why does he think so much stupid racist stuff in the first place? Where did he learn that? Surely that is where he should look? He tried to absolve himself of his addiction, it too was also not his fault. I wondered whether he was going to blame the Jews for that too. He tried to blame the press as if reporting something caused it ( a sort of cause-effect reversal in time; interesting physics, but I think not). He tried to blame his work load as if that was your fault. He tried to blame everything, like a child. But he had publicly blamed the Jews, while it was him that was being racist.
No Mr Galliano, you are a great designer, but you need to take the blame for your stupid racist remarks. You need to say sorry. The wine didn’t do it.