Luxury & Fashion Biz News: The John Galliano Conundrum (or, Fashion as bread and circuses)
The John Galliano Conundrum: Forgive and forget? Forgive but never forget? Never forgive and never forget?
From the snarky Guardian UK article, Poor John Galliano! Can’t people see he’s simply a charming subversive? — “The very reason why fashion people rallied round him is, one imagines, part of everyone else’s lingering disgust with the man . . . The problem is that … Galliano’s contribution to the wider culture is not universally recognised as transcendent, unfairly perhaps and in keeping with what fashion people will see as widespread philistinism towards their art. To the untutored eye, the guy looks like an idiot, and his outburst, like confirmation of what one has long suspected: that the fashion world’s promotion of a single, emaciated and until recently deracinated interpretation of physical ‘perfection’ would one day spill out of the aesthetic into more tangible modes of offence.”
The Galliano debate has flared up again because he was brought into the studio of US designer Oscar de la Renta to work on the just debuted Fall 2013 collection as a Designer in Residence (whatever that means) in what’s rumoured to be a deal brokered by Vogue Magazine’s Anna Wintour to bring the disgraced (yet still talented) designer back into the fashion industry’s hungry, needy orbit.
Oscar de la Renta Fall 2013 – “It made Oscar, who’s always been a great designer, look very cool”
But while many in the fashion fold are happy to see a Galliano comeback (for example, after his ousting from Dior, Galliano was hired by supermodel Kate Moss to design her wedding dress), with even the national Anti-Defamation League supporting forgiveness and the concepts of personal change and growth, there’s also a chorus of people who want the fashion world to have nothing to do with Galliano ever again.
John Galliano is just a very gross person and as a Jew and a human being, I am truly disappointed in Oscar de la Renta.
— Arielle Weinberg (@thescentsofself) February 13, 2013
And Nika Mavrody writes in her Fashion Spot article, Oscar de la Renta Is Bringing John Galliano Back Into the Fold — “I know there’s an argument to be made for giving Galliano a second chance after his 2011 disgrace, but I personally do believe his behaviour was unforgivable . . . I believe there’s a limit to how much we can forgive what people say and do when they’re intoxicated. I’m not saying we should imprison Galliano for life, but I don’t think it’s right to welcome him back with open arms and to help him reestablish his glamorous, high-profile career. It sets a bad precedent (and) sends the wrong message.”
Plus the latest hubbub in the papers over Galliano’s wardrobe choice when he attended the Fall 2013 Oscar show in New York reveals a lingering mainstream distrust of Galliano’s rehabilitation — which pretty much validates Dior’s decision to so quickly kick the designer to the curb once the damaging YouTube Hitler-rant video surfaced.
The video that destroyed Galliano’s career
Or, as Bridget Foley wrote for WWD: “The fact that the (NY) Post made a two-day deal, first of Galliano’s residency at Oscar, and then of his outfit, suggests that while fashion may be ready to forgive one of its own, the rest of the world may not . . . When I sought comment from retailers, most declined. That suggests A) moral outrage and/or B) tacit acknowledgment that, as retailers, their business is not forgiveness but selling. One noted that the evaluation of the customers’ mind-set would be an essential part of deciding whether to buy a future Galliano collection.”
It’s great to forgive, and who among us hasn’t done or said something reckless, stupid or regrettable that we’re grateful never got captured on a video camera and posted to YouTube? But just as there are a lot of bad judgement calls that can be learning experiences and catalysts for change, getting drunk and proclaiming an affection for a 20th century genocidal madman apparently isn’t one of them.
And with our 24/7 always-connected, always-documented world, that Galliano Hitler-rant video clip will never go away; it will always and forever be a reference point for any discussion regarding future Galliano collaborations, projects or employment positions.
What image-conscious brand could possibly weather that? And more importantly, why would they want to?
*NOTE: The latest scuttlebutt has Galliano heading for a teaching position at London’s Central Saint Martin’s school of fashion design (see: John Galliano To Teach At A Fashion School?), which is probably the smartest move the man can make at this point.
*RELEVANT ASIDE: It would be wise to note that right around the time Galliano was busily imploding his own career, Balmain designer Christophe Decarnin suffered a nervous breakdown, LVMH golden-boy Marc Jacobs was ping-ponging through a very public succession of porn-star boyfriends, and Alexander McQueen hung himself.
The new world order of corporate high-fashion is obviously a pressure-cooker environment. It doesn’t excuse bizarre Hitler rants, but it does make for an increasingly circus-like environment where performance-art as a day to day lifestyle appears to thrive.
I blame the hedge funds (see: Is Modern Finance Ruining Modern Art?).
*About Those Circuses: Rebecca Minkoff projected a live, unfiltered stream of tweets about her fashion week show on a giant screen on the runway. What could go wrong?
Rebecca Minkoff Fall 2013 — models, musicians and Twitter trolls
*Better News: Hermes reports sales leap, expects record margin — “Sales were boosted by activity in Asia where the company does most of its business and where it opened two new outlets, one in Taiwan and one in China … Sales in Asia rose by 28.6 percent and, excluding Japan, they rose by 36.2 percent … In America, where the sales network was increased, sales rose by 22.5 percent. Sales in Europe, supported by demand from foreign tourists, rose by 15.4 percent.”
It never ceases to amaze me how the relatively conservative, non-flash Hermes brand can just keep chugging along with higher and higher sales every year. As Luca Solca, analyst for luxury-goods research at Exane BNP Paribas in London, says — “‘The limit to what Hermes sells is how much it can produce’ , , , Revenue ‘is what they decide it’s going to be.’”
The also not-so-flashy, lower-priced Longchamp brand experienced an encouraging 16% bump in sales due to their less trend-driven and more retro-classic inspired line of handbags: “Longchamp CEO Jean Cassegrain said January and February ‘started well’ after a ‘difficult’ December in Europe, making him ‘quite optimistic’ the luxury company can keep up its double-digit pace this year. ‘If things are getting a little tougher in 2013, it can also play in our favour,’ he said in an interview. ‘We have proven to be more crisis-resistant than some of our competitors.’”
I remember asking a Paris acquaintance what she thought of the French brand Longchamp (which is still mostly manufactured in France), and she replied that she thought it was bourgeois and boring. I guess bourgeois and boring is what sells these days.
*Or Maybe Not: Is K-Fashion the New K-Pop? — “‘Parts of Korean culture, like music and film, are becoming popular in the world,’ said Lie Sang Bong through a translator. ‘But our traditional culture is fading in the modern world. I want to modernise the traditional elements of Korea for everyone to relate to.’”
Concept Korea runway show in New York for Fall 2013
For those just tuning in, K-Pop is presently epitomised in US mainstream culture by Korean popster PSY’s “Gangnam Style“, and Korean fashion designers are more than happy to ride that brightly saturated wave if it means some increased notoriety and exposure for their brands.
Which begs the question: Can Korean designers do for New York today what Japanese designers did for Paris in the 1980s?
Marginality as an Asset: “What made these Japanese designers unique was not merely the clothes they designed but their position and status as non-Western fashion outsiders. The marginality of these Japanese has become an asset. Until Kenzo, there were no Asian designers in Paris. He was followed by Miyake in 1973, Mori in 1977, and Yamamoto and Kawakubo in 1981. The Japanese designers in a field that is predominantly Western, began to use their cultural heritage to be acknowledged by the French, and they discovered that there are considerable financial benefits that they can bring back to their own country and also to other parts of the world. With the Federation’s approval, they become insiders.”
*Speaking of Japan: ‘The Great Shift in Japanese Pop Culture‘ is a terrific five-part series that’s well worth reading, offering up insights into current Japanese consumer mindset: “Louis Vuitton and Gucci bags were once the mainstream standard for middle-class (and even lower middle-class) women, but judging from the streets of Tokyo, young women now prefer furoku canvas bags that come for free inside of a magazine. There have been signs of slight luxury business recovery in recent months, but this can mostly be explained as Japan’s upper class going out to shop again and Chinese consumers visiting Tokyo. Luxury goods will likely never again be a part of the middle-class ‘standard.’”
Meanwhile, where one middle-class market falls, another rises to take its place: Why Do Saudis Buy Luxury Goods? — “The demand for luxury brands is on the rise worldwide, especially in countries experiencing rapid economic growth, but Saudi Arabia is different as luxury consumption represents middle-class aspirations . . . The world today is defined by who you know, rather than what you know. Status is more important now than ever. Being associated with elite, luxury brands helps inform others around you that you are worthy of their company and that you relate to their social class.”
What about Made in Minnesota? Is that a middle-class trend destined to catch on with the mainstream? One can only hope.