Tag Archives: Life

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

Tortured. Genius.

These two words – conjoined in their description of a subject, a state of being, at once both beautiful and ugly – have become favoured currency amongst the media in their coverage of the anti-Semitic imbroglio, and subsequent career implosion, of John Galliano.

By now, we will have all seen the videoin which an intoxicated Galliano, snarling words of bigotry, invokes Hitler and the gas chamber from beneath his piratical moustache – and it will, understandably, have surprised many.  The evidence of his racism is incontrovertible.  Most surprising of all, therefore, has been the rush of commentators – citing reasons as diverse as alcoholism, the madness of genius, and pressures of a frenetic work docket – who have sought to wrest Galliano from the hook of public censure.

What value do such fatuous statements add?

Galliano’s downfall may have been swift and shocking but it came at his own hands.  Having watched a member of my family struggle with addiction, I understand that – in knocking down the walls of social propriety and inhibition – alcohol lessens our ability to moderate behaviour and subverts morality.  Can it go further to create, or supplant, racist thoughts and ideologies where none had existed before?  My answer would have to be in the negative.

Mental illness and alcoholism are corrosive – absolutely so – but, whatever the explanations for Galliano’s tirade, there can be no excuses.  Only he – and not alcohol – stood as actor and protagonist in this debacle.

Subsumed within the apolitical borders of the fashion industry – with its appetite for the taboo – it is plausible that Galliano has long been protected by a phalanx of cohorts either unable, or simply unwilling, to hold a mirror to his behaviour.  As Alexandra Shulman, editor of British Vogue, recently commented: “We help these designers build an ivory tower and then we watch them throw themselves off it”.

Indeed, it might be argued that these same people continue to shelter Galliano by proferring excuses – and diverting our attention to the nature of his genius – as though this, in some way, negates the poison of bigotry.

Will Galliano work again? 

Who could ever predict, or know, what the denouement of this plot may prove to be?  There are, literally, six million reasons why Galliano’s statements were abhorrent and utterly unacceptable.  Dior’s dismissal of the designer was correct.  It is therefore regrettable that such swift and decisive action should be made equivocal by the patronage last week of Sydney Tolenado – President and Chief Executive of Dior – at the, admittedly scaled back, presentation for Galliano’s private label.  The horse has bolted – allegedly, to rehab – but it would seem the stable door has not closed. 

It is, of course, tragic to witness a human self-destruct.  It is tragic to observe John Galliano – a designer of extraordinary thematic imagination – snuff his once glittered career.  Nevertheless, we might be well-advised to remember the greater tragedy affecting, still today, the lives of all those needlessly brutalised by racism and prejudice.

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A Love Restored

As a young-un, my family home nestled quietly amongst the verdant and rolling hills of North Yorkshire.  It was a quaint and wholesome childhood – rather like something depicted in a Hovis commercial –  interrupted only ever by annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of culture and sirens: London.

In being transported from the slumber of my rural solitude, those long train sojourns – replete with bottomless bags of boiled sweets and games of ‘I Spy’ – seemed heady and deliciously exotic. 

A quote attributed to Thomas Wolfe reads ‘One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years,’ and, for me, he may well have spoken of London.  I adored her from the first moment of our meeting. 

One particular memory from my childhood has me bundled like a sardine on the tube – melting in a heat unbeknownst even to Hades.  I curiously looked around at my unsmiling carriage companions and pondered why they seemed miserable. 

‘I won’t care to be so unhappy when I live here,’ I had thought. 

It was a childish quixotism borne of days filled with wonderment: whether they were spent visiting the theatre, quaking in my little patent-leather Clarks shoes at the Tower of London, taking tea (well, orange cordial) at Fortnum’s, giggling at the penguins in London Zoo or, one of my most favoured activities, shopping at Browns.

Whilst the adults played dress-up, I would sit beneath the rails – the scent of newness and wealth all around and so different to the thin, smoked air outside – and romanticise the day when I would finally be old enough to belong to London.

That day seemed so faraway…

The Great Wen can be a cruel mistress and there are times when my love for her fades. Times when, amidst the crucible and merry sing-song of seemingly a million languages, I long only to hear a friendly Northern voice. Times when, on observing my own, I startle at how softened it has become. The intrepid girl, who only ever saw wonder in the teeming metropolis, seems lost to me.

After six years of cohabiting, even Romeo and Juliet would have squabbled and so – as any trashy self-help book might advise – I make every effort to rewalk childhood steps and ‘date’ my city.  I escape to the penguins once more.  I smile cheerfully at passing strangers. And, of course, I flee to Browns for the sanctuary and soothing of retail therapy. 

Voyaging through the underworld of London, there may be occasions when a child alights upon my face and meets with only a look of sadness from her carriage comrade.  However, if I were to be sporting these Nicholas Kirkwood shoes – exclusively designed for the Brown’s Future Collectables capsule and worn by Sarah Jessica Parker during the SATC2 press junket – something tells me that she would instead find greeting with my smile.

Even better?  They may just make everyone else smile, too…*

* Either that, or I’m headed for a mugging.

|Browns|

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