Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Golly oh no

It's not just the Sartorialist. Suzy Menkes's take on the Galliano controversy involves a lengthy, breathy description of his achievements as a designer. Yes, identifying who Galliano is is necessary for a mainstream, not-fashion-oriented readership. But there's a whole lot of oohing and ahhing, so as to set up the idea that we should be shedding a tear for this loss for humanity. (Really a loss for Dior for five minutes, after which point Galliano will be rehired or reinstated elsewhere, because that's how these things go - just ask Imus!) And then:

Friends of Mr. Galliano, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, say that they have finally persuaded the troubled designer to go immediately into rehab — and that the pace of fashion today, and particularly the rigorous structure of a corporate fashion house, broke the fragile, artistic creator.
What a heaping, steaming pile of BS. This might well rank as the most ridiculous sentence I have ever seen, on the Internet if not beyond. Commercialism and modernity were simply too much for the delicate flower of a man, he couldn't take it, and predictably enough, he lashed out at the group thought to incarnate commercialism and modernity. Attributing his ravings to alcoholism was already a stretch; the pressure of being a fashion designer...*

Menkes, one might point out, is simply reporting on what anonymous fashion-types have told her, but then we get this gem: "While the vile statements seen coming from Mr. Galliano’s drunken lips on the Internet video deserved the nearly-universal condemnation they were receiving, there is pathos in the vision of one of the world’s most famous — and best paid — designers alone, clutching a glass in a bar." It is now considered a sign of tragedy to sit in a bar in Paris, in the Marais, by one's self, with a drink? Menkes's "pathos" sounds to me like the kind of vacation many people dream of their whole lives and never get to take. It sounds like the study break I should be taking from my dissertation, were I not so preoccupied with this story.

Absurdly, Menkes attributes Galliano's outburst to "[t]he pressure from fast fashion and from the instant Internet age to create new things[.]" Let me get this straight. It's the fault of H&M, Zara, and fashion blogs that Galliano hurls racist insults after he's had a few? Menkes thus agrees with Galliano's anonymous friends, that the explanation for Galliano's behavior is the fact that he was put on this earth to sit in an artisanal workshop off a cobblestoned road in 1612, yet has been forced into - or fallen victim of - nasty, corporate, capitalistic Modernity. As if Galliano had no agency in not only getting tipsy and saying racist stuff to perfect strangers, but also in having an association with Dior/Louis Vuitton/whatever to begin with.

*As a mildly paranoid aside, I've always thought that wistful remarks about the "pace" of modernity, about how these days, everyone's so busy, things move so fast, remarks that are rarely substantiated with examples of precisely what has changed, and when this Golden Age of four-hour workdays was supposed to have been the norm, are - whether intended this way or not - tinged with anti-Semitism or other old-timey xenophobias, nostalgias for an era when They knew their place. This is not helping to change my assumption.


PG said...

I don't think such wistful remarks are ALWAYS tinged with xenophobia, given that people like Gandhi have been known to make them. (Not defending Gandhi's fetishization of agricultural India and weaving your own loincloth, just saying you can dislike modernity without disliking some specific ethnicity that you blame for it.)

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


There are obviously critiques of capitalism, say, or pollution, that are not About The Jews.* However, at least in the West, any generic hearkening back to a simpler time is at best oblivious to how crappy things were back in the day for the marginalized, at worst nostalgic for that inequality.

*Obligatory "Seinfeld" reference: Astroturf!

BioBebop said...

While your point about the culture of drinking alone in the Marais is well taken, I was a bit surprised to see a solitary Galliano in his little getup, drunk and ranting to tourists.I for sure would have guessed that there would be a couple of sycophants or models around at least.
I imagine that setup (perhaps minus the anti-semitism) could be treated cinematically to evoke pathos.
And while it cannot ever serve as an mitigating excuse, I do think bald hatred can have a dimension of tragedy with the right amount of distance. In any case, I'm glad he lost his job.