The Galliano Gall

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Free speech is a tricky thing, isn’t it? It’s very easy to defend when the words you hear are pleasant and agreeable. When words are hostile and vicious, well then it’s something else altogether. Now, of course, not every country actually supports free speech and that’s hardly something to be commended but a little legislation can be a very good thing. Our Gallic neighbours, the French, have some strict penalties against hate speech and fashion magnate John Galliano is learning just what they are. Last February, footage appeared online of John Galliano spewing drunken racial slurs at a woman and her partner while at La Perle, a bar in Paris. The victim states that for 45 minutes Galliano unleashed a venom-filled tirade in which he stated she had “revolting eyebrows, low end boots and low end thighs” and that was the nice part! Some of his more damning statements went on to include talk of Jews, Hitler and the Holocaust. After informing the victim that her relatives should have been gassed, he went on to proclaim “I love Hitler!” The problem from Galliano’s standpoint, is that all of this was caught on tape.

Considering the damage the Third Reich brought to France, the locals quite rightly don’t have much sympathy for Nazi sympathisers. Galliano defended his actions by stating that he had been under a great deal of stress due to both his job and the death of his work partner and close friend, Steven Robinson. This lead to an increase in drinking and pill-popping which, he claims, is the real reason behind those hateful remarks. Drunk or not, on some level he had to know just how offensive his comments were.

In March, Galliano was dropped by Dior and, since then, the only known work he has produced is the wedding dress for friend and supermodel Kate Moss. He has filled much of his free time at a centre for alcohol and drug rehabilitation in Arizona in the States. One hopes that while detoxing, Galliano also managed to work through the emotions dragging him down after his friend’s death.

After his trial in France this Summer, Galliano stated that the views in the video are not ones he holds or believes in. And, while that may be true, the damage is done. Along with losing his job, Galliano has now been fined over 6,000 Euro although he did avoid jail time, which was a possibility for the disgraced designer. While the suspended fine itself is not much of a punishment, the overall damage to his reputation may be beyond repair. The designer has many supporters within the fashion industry but in a free market economy the biggest support comes from total strangers willing to pay for your clothing. It remains to be seen if John Galliano will be able to return to high fashion design or if he will simply fade away to be replaced by a designer who understands how to keep his mouth shut when out in public on a bad day.

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