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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

John Noakes was everyone’s favourite presenter in the 1970s. It’s a shock to realise the eternal boy scout is now an octogenarian suffering from dementia  

How remarkable that John Noakes still has the power to affect me so

Matthew Norman
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy