Susannah Frankel: A sad end to the most glittering of careers

 

Share
Related Topics

The first show I ever saw as fashion editor of a national newspaper was John Galliano's debut haute couture collection for Givenchy.

Staged in January 1996, in a massive sports arena in the suburbs of Paris – the designer was always frowned upon for dragging his audience to the ends of the earth purely for the privilege of witnessing his work – it overturned every pre-conception of a traditional runway presentation and was so breathtakingly beautiful one could only marvel at the sheer imagination of the man behind it.

I was, until that point, unaware of the ethereal loveliness of a silk, bias-cut John Galliano gown, or the languid grace of his tailoring. Minimally minded and hopefully at least somewhat emancipated, I never thought I might long for frosty lilac, or that vivid flame could possibly make my heart beat faster. Models, their faces painted like china dolls, came at the audience from all directions, finally arriving at the centrepiece – a Brobdignagian bed, on to which Galliano's princess for that season clambered wearing the most excessive and overblown gown of them all. It was a fairy-tale ending, to a fairy-tale experience, as clichéd as it was lovely – at once ridiculous and sublime. Most remarkable of all, though, was the fact that its creator was capable of casting a spell over even the most sceptical onlooker. Like only very few others before or since, Galliano persuaded the world that, really, it was fine for a woman to need an escort – her heels were that insanely high – or that a skirt so huge it threatened to gather the entire front row into its folds was the height of fashionable good taste. He is a dream-maker, and fashion is built on dreams, which is why, only a year after his appointment, Bernard Arnault, founder, president and CEO of France's largest luxury goods conglomerate, LVMH, moved him across to the far bigger and more important Christian Dior.

Fifteen years on and by now responsible for many of the most spectacular moments in fashion history, termination proceedings have been commenced against the designer following three separate incidents of alleged anti-Semitism. "We unequivocally condemn the statements made by John Galliano," said Dior chairman and CEO Sidney Toledano, "which are in total contradiction to the long-standing core values of Christian Dior."

For anyone who has ever met the designer, perhaps the most peculiar part of this story is that they also appear to be in total contradiction to John Galliano himself. Fashion has its fair share of intolerable snobs and even bullies. Galliano, though, is gentle and shy in person, and never came across that way. Instead, here was a man driven to the point of obsession, to communicate his ideas, on the catwalk first and foremost, but also, and unusually, taking the trouble to talk journalists through rails of clothing back in the showroom and even inspiration books. Everything from painstakingly collaged reference pictures to drawings to swatches of fabrics was gathered here, and they are precious objects in their own right.

Much has already been written about the unreasonable demands made on today's designers, who are forced to create not only upwards of 10 collections each year but also to conceive advertising campaigns and attend everything from a store opening to the launch of a lipstick. Galliano, clearly a fragile human being, is not the first to find himself buckling under such pressure and it is a great sadness that he is now compromised, both personally and professionally, to the point, perhaps, of no return.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Manager - Alconbury

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for an Engineering M...

Recruitment Genius: .Net / SQL Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A skilled .NET developer with e...

Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the old Palace of Westminster; Batman vs Superman; and more Greenery

John Rentoul
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee