John Galliano’s comeback might be underway and it’s making me feel a touch conflicted. Last week we learned that the once-disgraced designer has a new gig in new York–yes, fashion students will soon have the option of taking a John Galliano Parsons class. The school told the following to Lucky Magazine:
”An invaluable part of a Parsons education is the opportunity to learn from the world’s leading designers, from Donna Karan and Diane Von Furstenberg to Olivier Theyskens. The planned master class with John Galliano will be a dynamic and intimate opportunity for our students to learn from an immensely talented designer. We believe that over the past two years Galliano has demonstrated a serious intent to make amends for his past actions, and as part of this workshop, Parsons students will have the opportunity to engage in a frank conversation with Mr. Galliano about the challenges and complications of leading a design house in the 21st century.”
The class will be called “Show Me Emotion” and includes a three-day workshop culminating in a critique with Galliano himself. His previous work leading Christian Dior (and Givenchy briefly!) and his own label speaks for itself; he’s an exceptionally gifted designer with a lot to offer; those who will take his course are certainly in for a once-in-a-lifetime treat… but I wouldn’t want to be there.
It’s challenging to figure out just how to feel about a man with such extreme qualities. Galliano’s talent does not outweigh his problematic history, but the reverse is also true. One must consider his contributions to fashion as well as his outrageous comments when considering how to solve a problem like John Galliano.
It’s likely that he wasn’t entirely sincere about his vicious remarks. Even the Anti-defamation League, who exist to eradicate anti-semitism, seem to think that his rant was a booze-fueled error. When Galliano wore an outfit that seemed to visually reference Hasidic jews, the Anti-Defamation League considered the charges of anti-semitism entirely concocted.
Excusing his actions wouldn’t be any more constructive than banishing him to an island prison never to design again. People responded appropriately to the footage, by which I mean he absolutely should have been fired from Dior. It’s not cute to say deliberately inflammatory things, even if he didn’t really mean them… they’re still harmful. You can tell by the way he snarled that he knew what he was saying was offensive. As a victim of oppression himself, he should have known better, but he was saying those things on purpose, to be provocative.
Galliano has recovered decently from the Parisian café incident a few years ago. Since 2011, when he got busted being a jerk, he’s mostly avoided media attention, went to rehab, apologized for his behavior and hasn’t publicly said much else. Galliano worked with Oscar de la Renta earlier this year–proof that he’s no longer a complete pariah. If the class does truly involve a frank discussion, teaching aspiring fashion designers is a pretty cool next step in his redemption. He didn’t get away with it but I still wouldn’t want to be around him.