Friday, March 11, 2011

When a Genius Turns Out to Be a Jerk

Sooo . . . how about that Galliano stuff? In case you've been living blissfully under a rock, you probably know that he was fired from Dior after spewing awful anti-Semitic, misogynistic stuff.

At first I just hoped it wasn't true. After all, in this post I called him a genius. And one of my favorite sewing writers calls him "a god." Sadly, it seems he's all too human. And a pretty despicable human, at that. Galliano has since gone off to rehab (I guess that cures you of being a terrible person now?) but denies the accusations against him . . . even though they were caught on video.

It's been interesting to watch the public reaction to all this. Celebrities can take a stand by boycotting Galliano gowns for red carpet events. But what about the average fashion-loving fan? We haven't lost the opportunity to wear couture gowns, but something intangible instead: the inspiration that Galliano's amazing designs provided, which are now pretty much tainted forever, at least in my mind.
Of course, we can try to make the distinction between the artist's views and the art itself. After all, the designs themselves were not anti-Semitic or sexist. But I think all too often talented men get a free pass when it comes to their personal lives and views (think of Roman Polanski or Charlie Sheen, though I hesitate to call the latter talented). The best we can do is condemn him and move on, I suppose. (Rather than, say, giving him a line of t-shirts with his awful soundbites.)

The most fitting farewell was the one given, I think: at the last show, after Galliano's dismissal, all the house's seamstresses and tailors were brought out to take a bow in place of Galliano himself. After all, the many shows he put on were not only his accomplishment to claim. I'm going to console myself by thinking of these women and men and all the hard work they put into their craft.
What do you think? Can you separate the man from the art?

95 comments:

  1. To be honest, I still have major problems with all things Disney, given Walt Disney's anti-communist and anti-semitic leanings in the 1940s, so I feel bit of a hypocrite allowing my daughter to watch the films.

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  2. Have we not learned by now, after all the trials and tribulations different people have gone through....to let this racist idiocy die? It makes me sick about Galliano, Mel Gibson, Walt DIsney, etc etc......I abhor people that promote this train of thought.
    And no, I can't seperate the Art from the Artist. For me, one seeds the other, and vice versa. Sad. I loved those designs. :o(

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  3. I think you have to separate both, but it's not easy. A French novelist called Louis Ferdinand Celine was famous for his anti-semitic opinions, not a long time ago the French authorities wanted to include him in a celebration of great 20th Century novelists but backed out after people complained. They insisted on the fact they only wanted to celebrate his talent and not his personal opinions, but it's hard to separate the two.

    I made a very enthusiastic post about the Galliano collection featured on your post, which was about a month ago I think? I then had to add on an edit saying that while I still admired the designs I felt bitter-sweet considering they were created by such a dark mind.

    Clever post, as usual Gertie!

    xx

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  4. I love your timing on putting this subject to the table. The first shock about Galliano has faded a bit, and people have had the time to give it a little tought, meaning it isn't drenched with emotions as much as when the news first came out. I love Galliano's work, but it is (a bit) overshadowed by his horrible outings. The same goes for Mel Gibson. Whenever a movie comes out, whith him casted, I can't help but be reminded of the terrible things he said about the same subject as Galliano did. It doesn't make his acting of a lesser quality, but it's the viewer who has a different eye on his work. In my opinion, the same thing goes for Galliano. His outings doesn't make him a bad designer, and I don't think he put labels in his dresses with the terrible things he said, but people will look at his work with a different eye. If you could afford to purchase a Galliano a few years ago, you would be absolutely delighted to have a dress designed by such a wonderfull designer. If you look at the same dress now you will see it differently. It works the other way as well. A very talented designer Percy Irausquin died at the age of 39. His last collection was sold out at an extremely high speed. Maybe not exactly the same thing as being prosecuted about your outings, but it's just an example of the external factors that make people think different about things that haven't changed. I still love Galliano's dresses, but for inspiration purposes only, I don't think it will be in my top ten of designer dresses to purchase if I had the money, anymore.
    Well, this is an awfull long reply, sorry...

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  5. A thoughtful post. We can separate the artist from his or her prejudice - we have always done so, although there seems something ethically misguided or amiss about it at times. I imagine if art were prejudged by moralist philosophy before it was declared art, we could kiss Picasso and the Hip Hop industry good-bye. I believe that in many cases, those who are wonders or geniuses in their craft are cognitively radical - they see the world very differently than the rest - it's what makes them exceptional - even if their views are profane...

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  6. At this point fashionable people have no choice but to boycott Galliano. But wait a second: obviously at least some of his colleagues must have had prior knowledge of his anti-Semitism -- surely, given the ferocity of his comments, these episodes weren't the first time he aired his opinions. These were simply the first times he'd been caught. His bosses and, perhaps, some of his customers were willing to put up with his unpalatable opinions until they could no longer afford to do so. All in all, Dior and friends come off a little less high-minded than they might have us believe.

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  7. Gertie, thank you for giving us so much to think about in your blogs.

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  8. I really liked this post. Here is how I see it- he was just the face of those designs that walked down the runway. It is extremely doubtful that he really designed the majority of his own collections. I believe the true work really was done by the folks you showed on the runway. I think we won't lose the design aesthetic because so often horrible people (like him) take credit for the work done mostly by the team. I think we have many designs to look forward to from Dior, and not all is lost. Lets not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Hate the man, love the clothes, and honor the people that are most likely truly behind the designs! Hearts, Janna Lynn

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  9. I'm extremely sadden by the whole situation. My hope is those who are inspired by his creations become the new designers we can find inspiration in.

    Geertie, can you give you top 5 places to find fabric in Manhattan?

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  10. It's really hard to view Galliano the same way, but in and of themselves, the gowns are gorgeous. By contrast, Marc Jacobs' collection, which is a sartorial homage to Nazi S/M film, "The Night Porter" is tacky in theme and style. I don't in any way endorse Galliano's world views, but at least he had enough wherewithal not to bring his personal politics onto the runway with his escapist fashion. Not sure which is worse, but I find it rather galling that Jacobs gets away without much of a firestorm (at least from what I've read). Tackiness abounds in the fashion world lately.

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  11. I think we have to separate the man from the dresses...the dresses are just too amazing not to.

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  12. Coco Chanel. What does the name mean to you? The inventor of modern chic, or the Nazi companion?

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  13. I have no problem separating the artist from the work and I still think Galliano is a genius.

    If I had the money to buy that grey dress with sprays of flowers, would I? Yes absolutely. I might not wear it in public until the furore had died down, or indeed ever, but it remains a thing of great beauty, however ugly the drunken outbursts of its creator.

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  14. @ Mae: Another example of the complexity of France's attitude during WW2. A video also appeared from the INA website (French TV archives) of an interview of Dior's own niece who married an English Neo-nazi.

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  15. These kind of things are always complicated. My initial reaction is that Galliano's art has been tainted to ruination, much like Mel Gibson's movies (even though I really loved the Lethal Weapon series). But when I think about it, I like the works of plenty of artists who hold or held political ideals I disagree with. Wagner was anti-Semitic, and the Ring Cycle are still my favorite operas. Voltaire was anti-Semitic, and who doesn't have respect for Voltaire? I've always been uncomfortable with Tolkien's conservative Catholicism and views on women, but The Silmarillion is still my favorite book. I can watch Beauty and the Beast or visit Disneyland without being overly bothered by Walt Disney's anti-Semitic and misogynist views. Etc.

    But thinking more on it, one of the main factors at work is time: people are the product of their times. Previous time periods did not share the advanced liberalism we expect to be the norm today. It doesn't make the attitudes of the past right, but you can't really blame Voltaire for being anti-Semitic in a time when anti-Semitism wasn't even regarded as an issue for morality. People could be good people, by the standards of their time, while holding views that we consider to be abhorrent today. The difference is that today, people have no excuse. We do consider things like anti-Semitism and misogyny to be moral issues today, we have ample dialogue about and historical examples of exactly why they should be considered moral issues, and if you fall on the wrong side of the line, people have the right to consider you a bad person. So in the end I don't think it's terribly hypocritical of me to be biased against Galliano's work while still enjoying Götterdämmerung. (Although I might just be justifying my hypocrisy to myself because it's relatively easy to give up a dress design I sort of liked and much harder for me to give up music I love.)

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  16. Thank you for another thought provoking conversation. In our terribly imperfect world, some people are blessed with amazing talent. Of course, as already stated, Galliano or any artist/designer does not accomplish these amazing designs alone. I suspect there is much more of this bias throughout the fashion world, it just has not yet been documented. It is terribly sad, but I feel the need to rise above it. I can appreciate the artist but it will be forever tainted by these events. One last comment, I applaud the House of Dior for drop-kicking M. Galliano to the curb. Be it to Rehab or whatever. Bipolar disorders (depressed or manic) do indeed frequently carry a substance abuse dual diagnosis. While that is not an excuse, it is just a statement of fact.

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  17. If I felt it proper to restrict my interests and influences to artists and personalities who where flaws of heart and mind, I would have a pretty bleak world at hands. On the same tip, I prefer the pre-internet days when it was easier/more desirable to keep your personal business to yourself.

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  18. I would not separate the artist from the man;because many of the women that wears his clothes are of Jewish heritage. The fact that he was caught on camera make no difference and to add insult to injury he has the nerves to deny it. He is a coward and a.....
    And know he is in rehab, give me a break. I hope the fashion industry cut him loose and if he wants to design clothes, let him start his own fashion house and convince the same rich Jewish women that he has offended to buys his clothes! Galliano lost touch with the real world, our world is made up of so many cultures and heritage. Sad, anyway I have no problems disregarding his designs, I don't care how fabulous they are.

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  19. I'm not going to leave a heavy comment here other than to say he is/was a leading figure in the fashion world and should act accordingly representing Dior and the fashion business on a world-wide stage.
    I do want to say that I LOVE the fact the Dior had the "dream-makers" on stage and recognised for all their hard work and efforts. maybe other fashion houses may follow?
    Thanks for a well timed post
    x

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  20. I'm terrible torn about this issue, as a designer I find him a genius, year after year he has delivered catwalk gold. While I don't justify him (by any means!) I wonder why others get a pass on equally disturbing public displays of insensitivity. The Marc Jacobs collection is a good example, but anybody that has read an interview with K. Lagerfeld knows what I'm talking about. See for example here and tell me what he does for female body image. Or has he become so irrelevant nobody cares?

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  21. Sooner or later Les Enfants Terribles fall from grace.

    enfant terrible French [ɑ̃fɑ̃ tɛriblə]
    n pl enfants terribles [ɑ̃fɑ̃ tɛriblə]
    a person given to unconventional conduct or indiscreet remarks

    He was a genius though!

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  22. If Galliano is a true liberal, he will be rehabilitated and rise up back to the top. All will be forgiven. If he's a conservative, he will be smashed down permanently, his career in tatters forever. The fashion world is peculiar that way.

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  23. I won't say anything new. I am sad and concerned with Galliano's attitude. I don't want to excuse him but I think that he had not said what he did had nnot his mind been affected by drug nad alcoohl abuse or whatever illegal substances...
    His status as an artist makes him living out of reality, him being considered a genius has made him lose sanity.
    One thing I wanted to underlined that has already been said by many readres of this blog is Galliano would not be Galliano without the petites mains and premier d'atelier and all the people that make his drawn designs come to life. I think they are the real artists and not only "craftmen"

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  24. I have a very strict policy of admiring an artist's (politician's, etc.) work but not getting too involved in who the person is as an individual. Maybe that's cynical of me, but it saves me a lot of disappointment.

    I learned this in middle school, when I was a big Doors fan. Jim Morrison was a distinctly disappointing individual.

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  25. MB, I don't think it's a matter of him being a liberal or conservative, but a matter of whether he's truly an intolerant and hateful person. Being conservative is not the same as being anti-Semitic.

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  26. I agree with everything Bess said.

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  27. I agree w/ Nathalie. He's a genius *and* a jerk.

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  28. My first reaction was that, no I couldn't separate the man from the art, that I would always associate even the most beautiful piece with the ugly rantings of a poisoned mind. But as I give it more thought, I realize that I have been able to do so in the past, at least to some degree. I think that once the art of a person is shared, it becomes a part of all who experience it, and its innate beauty, (or whatever the opposite of beauty is) stands independent of the person who translated it from an idea into a physical representation of its germ-idea. I believe strongly that all ideas good or bad, are available to all of us, without a true ownership. We can all feel love, and our free will can allow us to align ourselves with love. We can all feel hate, and choose to distance ourselves from it.
    I remember when Woody Allen's immorality was revealed. I was so sickened by the pain and damage he caused his family, especially his wife, that I made a decision not to watch his movies. I wasn't a huge fan anyway, but I recently reflected that I wonder if I would have done so, if I had admired his work. I think I would have found a way to separate the man from the art. (Although I'm not certain, because in the case of WA, and Mel Gibson to view the art is to view the man himself, and that is more of a challenge!)
    Thanks for giving us something to chew on!

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  29. One of the people that I admire most as a woman and a designer is Diane von Furstenberg. As she is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, I found her comments to have particular merit. She said that while she believes what he said is unacceptable, she feels pity for him, and that he is a fragile, sensitive person that she believes was provoked. For myself, I think that there is good and bad in all of us. For the vast majority of us that never rise to such heights of genies, our lowest points are equally not nearly so low. As we watch more and more celebrities have melt downs in real time, it calls to question the way our society rewards talent. With regards to actors, I think that the studio contract system that so many greats worked under in the 1940's and 1950's when they were paid a wage that allowed them to live well, was much better than the way that they are compensated now, amassing wealth that removes them from reality.

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  30. oops! That was supposed to be genius, not genies!

    Thanks for such a thought provoking post!

    xoxo, A.

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  31. Well, it's not a particularly healthy industry anyway. I don't know why we get so cross at people in the entertainment and fashion industry for being less than perfect. They are not saints. As to the stuff Galliano said: yes, it was awful awful stuff, shocking to hear said.

    But he was off his face, not that that is any excuse, but listen in on most drunken conversations and there will often be awful stuff being said. And we can surely condemn people for what they say when they are drunk, and Galliano had to be strung up for this, but I still feel sorry for him.

    To be in that state, to say stuff like that, poor bloke, not healthy is he?

    Some of the best artistic talents in the world have been utter rotters in real life. I think Galliano has just been unfortunate and that he was out of his mind. He could plead insanity and get away with it.

    He should be punished and we should get to air our feelings about what he said, but really, a drunk fashion designer in a bar? Being filmed by who? They could have left it. He has said harmful things to them, but in the grand scale of things, what he said was utterly meaningless. His own personal bile. It's not like his designs are anti semitic is it?

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  32. I think that what Bess said is right on the money. We admire Jefferson and quote his views on freedom despite his racism and his belief in slavery. Unlike Washington, he never came to believe that his slaves should be freed. How many other people have had views about things that were then considered normal but are now considered abhorrant? We may never have come to our current beliefs about racial equality and freedom without some of the things that Jefferson wrote, despite the fact the he didn't apply them to all men. Still, maintaining prejudices that are well past their time isn't so easy to forgive. On the other hand, think how the use of the word "socialist" was so polarizing when applied to medical reform. It prevented many people from considering any possibility of benefits to the system, despite the fact that the Cold War has been over for twenty years.
    As for Galliano, I think it's hard to make a decision. Clearly, Dior made the right decision in firing him, and boycotting his work seems to be the thing to do for future collections, but being inspired by his past work... that's a grey area. I think that a lot of his work that I really like was a play on Dior's work, so really, I think it's fair to trace that stuff back to Dior as the origin.

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  33. No, I can't separate the art from the man and, to be honest, I'm not even going to try. I find Galliano a completely despicable and utterly repugnant person.

    I can't believe that going to 'rehab' is supposed to cure him from being a racist idiot. It didn't seem to work on Isaiah Washington when he attacked T.R. Knight. Mel Gibson seems to have learned to keep his repugnant thoughts to himself.

    It saddens me to no end that we are still dealing with this hatred in this day and age.

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  34. Boycott him??? Nooo, I will NOT be doing that! What did he do? Get pissed and say things he did not mean to win a fight. No one else has ever done that? No one has ever wanted to hurt or shock some jerk so they say things they don't mean? I have. We want his career to be over for that? Nope, sorry. I would have to start boycotting a lot of stuff then, Someone mentioned Disney. He was more racist that John is, but I doubt everyone here that says down with Dior is going to give up their beloved Mickey Mouse. Sounds like we wanted him to be above human error and we found out he was not we were so shocked we want his life to be ruined now.. Sorry I sound kinda bitchy, I really don't mean to. I just don't like hero worship. He is just a man, a man with problems just like you and me, but when he fucks up the world sees it. No one caught me when I got in a fight with an old friend and said HORRIBLE things to her because of the way she hurt me, but if I was someone I would have been in SO much trouble. All I'm saying is, we all say dumb shit sometimes, lets get mad at the people that ACT terribly. Michael Vic, yeah. He is a bad guy.

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  35. Having seen quite a few blogs where commenters were at each other's throats over this topic (to the point that it's put me off those blogs altogether), I have to praise Gertie and her readers for leaving torches and pitchforks at bay and providing instead some highly thoughtful and intelligent comments.

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  36. Somewhat off-topic, but I would like to reply to NessaKnit's comment.

    I wonder if you could elaborate on your "he's probably bipolar" comment. Was that a joke or true concern?

    What did you mean?

    Thanks Gertie... sorry to be off topic, but I think your readers appreciate a sensitivity to the effects of the language we use... especially in light of the Galliano incident.

    Cat

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  37. I think unless the opinion is integrated into the artwork, it's easy to separate talent and man. There were/are plenty of artists that were/are huge jerks that produce fantastic things. Our founding fathers owned slaves and they still did a great thing uniting this country. No one is perfect.

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  38. You know is is something I have been thinking about a lot. I think you can separate the art from the artist to a point.

    About a year ago, Emile Autumn, a singer song writer, blew up at a fan on her forum. She told her to sell all her stuff that she had, stop being her fan and never come back. The fan was little out of line, but not enough to blew up like that. I still love her music, but I am much more hesitant to buy anything from her. In this case I couldn’t separate the art from the artist. But she is still talented, and I respect that part of her.

    Amanda Palmer, another singer I am fan of, has tons of stuff I have disapproved of. But I am still a fan, I still give her my money.

    So I don't know. I take it on a case by case basis. Galliano is talented, I don't know much about design, but I can see that. I respected his work and talent. But I would never give him my money. But I do believe people can change, and maybe some day he will redeem himself. Time will tell.

    Anyway, ramble, ramble. This post is kinda pointless.

    Awesome topic Gerti.

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  39. I must live under a rock. I was totally unaware of the reason he was fired. It is entirely justified. How horrific.
    Beautiful gowns, but it is somewhat disturbing that the same mind that can make these gowns can carry such thoughts and hatred.

    I am very glad to see the team behind actually making the gowns come out and bow. I think they deserve so much recognition, and it's a shame that a lot of people who make things happen get forgotten in place of the big name.

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  40. Someone further up the discussion brought up the point that this outburst can't have been Galliano's first, and that there are bound to have been people in his personal and professional life who knew that he held such views and perhaps even condoned it. I find this very hard to stomach - especially if it is the case that other people at Dior were aware of it, and only punished him for it when it became public and therefore a PR disaster rather than an issue of morality.

    I find it difficult to separate art and artist and while I believe that art shouldn't be punished because of the beliefs of the artist, but it is difficult in practice to separate them. I hope that rehab does help John Galliano because to hold such beliefs and to have such hateful feelings in this day and age is really sad and narrow.

    One thing that would put me off buying his designs (if I had the money, obviously this is academic at this point) is his misogny. I wouldn't want to buy clothes designed for women by someone who hates women.

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  41. The man is his art, so I don't think I can separate the two. However, Galliano is not the House of Dior. I think Dior's president did the right things by firing him and by having the bow go to les petites mains who actually made the designs. I hope Dior finds another designer quickly so they can keep doing their beautiful work.

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  42. While I don't have a say in boycotting or not (I can't afford to buy Dior anyway), I think it's a little bit naive and silly to do so. Does anyone know the politics of the person who built the house they live in? The CEO of the company that makes the sneakers they wear...or the person who sewed their jeans? The driver of the bus they ride? The chef who creates the meal they eat? The owner of the diamond mine that provided the stone for their engagement ring, or the jeweler that set it? It is terrible that bigoted people still exist but thinking that we can distance ourselves from those attitudes by avoiding certain products isn't valid when we live in the bliss of ignorance about the vast majority of products we consume. We can only work against bigotry by being politically active, and intolerant of bigotry in our daily lives. Avoid Galliano's designs if it makes you feel better, but don't kid yourself that it's a strike against anti-Semitism.

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  43. What gets my goat is the "Rehab" strategy, as if spending a few weeks conveniently away from the camera's eye with other stunted souls could provide a "cure" for such deeply held hate. There's no question of separating the man and his work. The work was often lovely, but the man has revealed himself to be deserving of shunning by the media and the fashion world. Never fear, Dior will find someone else with wonderful ideas and we will applaud a new vision.

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  44. First of all let me say that I think it's a shame, that fame obviously has led J.G. to think it's OK to say/do whatever he wants. Luckily this time it had the right consequences! I think the management at Dior did the only right thing: To get him as far away from their brand as humanly possible! When all is said, a lot of the fashion industry in that league is part art and part money-making and as everybody knows bad publicity, like the stunt J.G pulled, can cost a brand quite a lot of money. Both right now and in the long run.
    As for the work he has done for Dior up until now, this case of idiocy hasn't changed my opinion about his designs. I still think he's a gifted designer. He just needs to work on being decent towards other people. Behave, John!

    Oh, and btw: Speaking of Dior: Have you heard? The head-designer at Givenchy and the ex-editor of french Vogue, Carine Roitfeld, are about to design a lil' something for the House of Dior. Make me wonder if maybe J.G. has been a victim of a conspiracy?? Just a thought. ;-)

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  45. Perhaps the kindest thing written about the Galliano episode is at
    http://emperorsoldclothes.blogspot.com/2011/03/galliano-fresh-perspective.html , which is worth reading. In it, Sewell argues that a drunk's loutish rantings are not actually an expression of deeply held thoughts.

    I'm not really familiar with the rantings of alcoholics but, seeing that I love some -though not all - of the work he's done, I'd prefer to hold on to the kindest possible view of him.

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  46. One small clarification: the photo of the les petites mains is from the Fall 2011 RTW collection. Those stunning dresses are from the Spring 2011 Couture collection a few months ago.

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  47. It seems to me that with the passage of time, a man and his views are almost always separated from his art. It's when the artist is still here and now that such a separation is difficult.

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  48. From your mouth, the heart speaks. Can I appreciate his creative talents, yes. Can I embrace the man, no. There were no Dior couture purchases on my horizon anyway, LOL. Much to steep for my pockets. But the depth of ignorance and bigotry that allows one to freely spew such venom can't be ignored. Think of the some 6 million people who died who during the Holocaust. What's a few fancy frocks in comparison to the respect the departed and descendants deserve.

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  49. For me it's just that I can't mentally separate the two. I can't watch Lethal Weapon anymore because all I'm thinking the whole time is "Martin Riggs = holocaust-denier" and then the movie isn't enjoyable. I can't really boycott Galliano since I'm never going to be able to afford his dresses anyways, but I try to promote with my purchases when I can (though @hillary had an excellent counter-point regarding this premise).

    I feel that if I'm going to worry about how the chickens that laid my eggs were raised, I'd be remiss not to worry about contributing financially to someone whose conduct held up such awful premises.

    Great post!

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  50. You see, judidarling, that's where I disagree. How do you know that it's 'such deeply held hate'? To date the only evidence is to be found within nasty drunken ramblings. Various people who have nothing to gain from saying such things have come out to state how totally uncharacteristic these outbursts were. It helps that I'm of the view that it is possible to say really horrible spiteful things drunk that one doesn't mean sober... I'm not excusing it, I'm just saying it happens.

    But since alchohol clearly brings out the ugly in him, what possible objection might you have to him at least attempting a stint in rehab?

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  51. Honestly, I was so confused by this. I feel like Galliano has been on the forefront of incorporating all kinds of cultures, body types, and view points in high fashion, so I was absolutely shocked by his abhorrent diatribe. It just seemed so counter to the message he's been sending the world through his career to this point. While I cannot stand this behavior, I think this is a really great "teachable moment." If Galliano was sincerely sorry for his behavior, he could document his journey from hatred to understanding and acceptance. Of course this would start with accepting and acknowledging guilt, which is easier said than done. I think we could all learn something from this, if he's interested in seeking forgiveness. In fact, I think the best resolution for this situation would be if he was hired by a design house with Jewish heritage. If someone sincerely seeks forgiveness, it's in everyone's interest to consider it. I guess the ball is in Galliano's court for now: will he live in sophomoric, petty infamy, or will he translate this as an opportunity for the world to learn about forgiveness, love, acceptance, and personal growth?

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  52. @Catherine:

    Having read that blog post (which was definitely worth a read), I find I can't really agree. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, and has the result of making us more likely to say the things we actually think, but when sober and conscious of the restraints of society, refrain from saying from politeness or fear of retribution. While I agree that Galliano seems to be a psychologically damaged individual and deserves psychiatric help, I don't buy into the argument that either his drunkenness or his anger means he "didn't mean it". Saying things when you "aren't thinking" means that you're saying what you do think, what you're not thinking of is whether what you're saying is acceptable, decent, or appropriate.

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  54. I always thought Galliano's designs were over the top and that he personally was a bit creepy, so I can't summon up much sympathy.

    My biggest efforts in the understanding of human fraility department are reserved for Chanel. Great designer, but she did live at the Ritz in Paris with a German officer and Nazi spy during World War II. She didn't understand why some of her countrymen disapproved.

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  55. Bess:

    You wrote:

    "[P]eople are the product of their times."

    True. So whenever I evaluate the attitudes of people of achievement from the past I consider whether or not their views were significantly more virulent than those of their contemporaries.

    Three writers who I believe are great, or at least extremely talented, but whose work for me is tainted by their antisemitism and/or racism even though I still read them are:

    T.S. Eliot;
    Virginia Woolf; and
    Dorothy L. Sayers.

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  56. Nathalie:

    I once tried that line of argument in defense of Mel Gibson (before he starting beating up his baby mommy, which is indefensible).

    The person I was talking to remarked that even though drunk people say things they don't completely mean, those statements don't come out of nowhere.

    In vino veritas is true a lot of the time.

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  57. In Polanski's case - no, never, not at all. I think he should be put in an American prison and they should forget to lock the door.

    In this guy's case... I think perhaps you can still take inspiration from his designs. I wouldn't put any money in his pocket, but if his dresses can inspire *you*, then I don't see a problem with that.

    I do make a distinction between being an idiot and physically harming someone.

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  58. I agree with Nathalie. I would say (from experience) that although some people do speak their true feelings when drunk, others most definitely go through a Jekyll and Hyde transformation and become something different, even opposite to their sober selves. No hard and fast rules on that I feel.

    The whole thing does not sit well with me, something just doesn't add up about the video against other reports of him plus his own background. He seems to be a nasty drunk who looks for any means necessary to insult someone. Whether that reflects his genuine beliefs and nature when sober is anyone's guess.

    It was totally required for Dior to sack him of course. And he's ruined his own career. The loss of his designs makes me very sad.

    Can I separate Art from Artist? Yes, I can. Many examples have already been cited of other well known names with questionable associations, beliefs and habits. The internet and modern media give us more intense and intimate views than we've ever had. Had that been the case in the past think how many people would be on the rejection list. Human beings are often just not very nice, they are stupid and misguided, and even downright horrible. The bigger the ego, the more intense the hothouse they live in, the more active their imagination then the more likely they are to step outside the acceptable boundaries. It isn't excusable of course, but it equally isn't unprecedented or even unusual.

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  59. His veiws are ugly but his work is beautifull. I'm not defending his comments or his actions.
    While you can't let his comments go un-noticed, it bothers me that many want to punish him. I like the word correction better but that is perhaps more difficult to do. You don't have to touch someones heart and heal it when you 'punish'. People come out of prison the worse for wear. It has been my experieance that many who are racist secretly suffer from shame and low self-esteem. Yes it's possible to brilliant and talented and underneath it all think you are crap. You see it all the time in Hollywood.....very sad.

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  60. It is very sad. It really diminishes the wonder of Galliano's talent, and similarly with others that are somehow poisoned with such hatred.

    I CAN separate the man from the art. Saying that though, I cannot enjoy the work to the previous degree. There is just no getting rid of the bad taste that is left.

    I am a student of anthropology and sociology. It does help me in no small measure to understand that even though a person may have some horrible aspects, there can still be some redeeming qualities and even gifts. I cannot think of him as a monster - but as a product of how he was raised and in the poor choice of company he kept. I find it hard to think his was an isolated case of such outlook. Still, understanding is NOT justifying.

    That in NO WAY excuses his own most important role in allowing himself to dismiss and cheapen the lives of others with that attitude. There is no doubt he had to have known a talented many of Jewish descent and certainly worked with many women.

    With the adoration of so many, perhaps it might further skew a weak-minded person's moral compass, allowing them to feel god-like and for them, other people fall into lower status. It seems many fall into this trap.

    Perhaps we can take this as an example of one with enormous potential and skill that has succumbed to his faults. It does not lessen his creations, but it does cheapen them by association.

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  61. I don't feel I have anything new to say, other than that I have been shocked and saddened by this news of his disgusting outburst(s). It may be terrible enough that they were caught on camera, but the fact remains that obviously these are viewpoints he has harbored for quite some time. His talent and work may have been pure genius, but his personal feelings on these topics certainly were not. I dare say I shan't look at his collections the same ever again...

    ♥ Casey

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  62. To the woman who said "he is probably bipolar".... that was an incredibly graceless and superfluous remark.

    We are discussing a man with racist ideologies, and the only way you can think to characterize him is "bipolar?"

    The term bipolar disorder is a medical diagnosis... it's not synonymous for "racist idiot."
    Your comment belies a stereotypical understanding of mental illness.

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  63. So tired of seeing celebrities go to rehab as if they'll come back a better person. Surely they'll just come back as an asshole without drug/alcohol problems (because I wasn't aware they had a rehab for antisemitism.) Similarly I'm tired of them also using mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour, it contributes to a really bad stereotype that says people who are mentally ill or addicted cannot control their behaviour (and thus you get people like the commenter above summarily diagnosing him with bipolar disorder, on the sole basis that he was drunk and being a jerk).

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  64. Good point to those who said we shouldn't try to diagnose him. Though armchair psychiatry is always tempting in these situations . . .

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  65. We can separate the man from his art, he cannot, we should not. We must act on all wrong and bring it into the light and eradicate all that we can. To continue to act as though he has said nothing is like saying the thief or murderer is not a bad person he just did a bad thing...PLEASE! ALL things start with a thought and a word. Evil words bring about evil acts. I'm sick of being exposed to trash and asked to tolerate it because it comes from the mouth of someone with a camera in front of them.....

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  66. I've always thought Galliano was way too full of himself. It's apparent in any interview he gives.
    I can't help but think about all of the musician's who've recently been outed for playing private concerts for horrible dictators lately (for ludicrous amounts of $$). Only once people found out did they get a conscience and donate the money. Unfortunately for Galliano, I don't think there's any amount of money he can throw at this to make people forget.

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  67. I have never been able to separate the art from the artist, for two reasons.

    1: Support the art? You support the artist. You go to Mel Gibson's movies, you're proving to casting directors that he brings in viewers, and thus increasing his paycheck. You wax melodically over Galliano and ignore the person he really is(once you know what kind of person he really is, of course), you're helping to build a false reputation for him- and reputations are the bread and butter of artistic pursuits.

    2: My art? Is me. I put myself into it, into every bit. That's the point of it: it's taking parts of me -what I love, what I fear, what makes me happy or sad, what I don't even understand- and slapping them out there, in whatever medium, for the whole world to see. What talent I have is not and never can be separated from who I am. To try and separate me from my art would sell both short.

    And I would hardly want to sell another artist short by picking and choosing which parts of their identity to recognize, would I? Ergo, I can't ignore the bad just because I appreciate the good (or vis versa).

    And some bad is just too bad for some nebulous 'talent' or 'vision' to make up for. I adore art, in all its forms, but I will never rank art as more important than -or perhaps, capable of absolving the need for- basic respect for human life.

    And basic respect for human life is where Galliano failed.

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  68. I've got to add a caveot, after reading Bess's comment. She said "But thinking more on it, one of the main factors at work is time: people are the product of their times. Previous time periods did not share the advanced liberalism we expect to be the norm today. It doesn't make the attitudes of the past right, but you can't really blame Voltaire for being anti-Semitic in a time when anti-Semitism wasn't even regarded as an issue for morality."

    The examples I cited, I realize, are all modern. And I am more forgiving of artists from the past- if I weren't

    In the early days of slavery, it took an utterly extraordinary person to be anti-slavery, much less think racial differences didn't make people more or less equal. After all, a person in that time period was born into, grew up in, lived and ate and loved a world where slavery was absolutely normal. And it takes someone very, very extraordinary to recognize when normal is wrong (particularly when exposure to other viewpoints was far more limited than it is today).

    And I don't expect people I admire (or at least respect) to be extraordinary. I just want them to be good people.

    In the modern age, there's more information. In the modern age, we have the past (and a greater connection with each other) to learn from. In the modern age, what was once extraordinary is normal.

    And so people who can't even reach the modern norm re: respect for others? Are not good people.

    So yes, while I still can't separate the art from the artist, there's a lot of context around any person's life to take into account.

    I suppose it's like this: who's a worse person, a rich man who steals because he feels like it, or a poor man who steals so he doesn't starve? Who's worse, a man who has been surrounded by all the lessons of the modern world all his life and is still hateful, or a man who has lived in a limited, rather hateful world and is hateful?

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  69. I have a hard time separating the man from the designer. I struggle with this because his designs were beautiful and he made the women wearing them beautiful. It' also a shame because his behaviour has undermined all the fabulous work and craftsmanship of the people who bought these designs to life. So it's fitting these people were acknowledged at his last show.

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  70. Dude, I live in the first world. So much of my life is possible only because of large scale hypocrisy and semi-conscious blindness. I can separate the dresses from the douchebaggery the same way I can think Porches are hot, forgetting about global warming, or the way I can love the pyramids, forgetting all the slaves.

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  71. While Galliano is obviously a pig, this post made me laugh. If a Conservative is unable to look past an artist or an entertainer's flaws, she would have damn few movies or tv shows to watch or music to listen to. The world is not that simple and adults have to learn to compartmentalize. That being said, there are some who will never get my money because I know too much about them.
    And Gertie, MB is right about how some people's flaws are overlooked while other's are not because they are in the wrong clique. I present Oliver Stone as an example.
    @Gaylene and @Gaidag- We didn't/don't hate Communism and Socialism because we were in a Cold War with Communist and Socialist countries. We hate Communism and Socialism because we believe they are MORALLY WRONG.

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  72. Dawn S - and anti-semitism?

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  73. I love this post - well I love your blog in general but this post in particular. I fully agree with you Gertie! If you don't mind I will share this post.

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  74. Great conversation, ladies! :)

    Dawn s, I feel like you're trying to make this about American politics. If anything, it would be about French politics, right? Let's try not to be so USA-centric.

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  75. It's like the same thing whenever you may hear about people's personal problems, how many authors were drinkers or had mental problems or other personal issues, but from an artistic standpoint their stuff is still beautiful. So many things are double edged swords, I don't know what to think.

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  76. I agree with what Patricia Field had to say about it. To condemn the man through video without understanding the situation or the person is foolish, and a great problem with the internet world. You can disagree with his possible sense of humor/view of life, but to damn his person when you do not know him is way out of line for anyone to do publicly. You cannot separate the artist and the man, the art is an extension of his theatrical view of life. He expresses himself most perfectly though the fashion, many artists have imperfect verbal expression and feel removed from society and the general stigmas of certain words or concepts-- using them metaphorically or for exaggerated effect in daily usage. He was impaired so he did not use the discretion required in such a situation, but as someone who constantly missteps verbally- I will take what his close friends have to say about it.

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  77. Nous pouvons apprécier l'art et laisser la justice faire son travail. Si nous-même jugeons catégoriquement nous devenons nous aussi intolérant.

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  78. We are all flawed human beings in one way or another; under microscopic light we would all fail in someone's eyes. I'm not defending him, he seemed drunk and was being ugly on the video that I saw. It seemed he showed a bad side of himself that night. Also, I never heard him refer to that woman as any faith or culture, maybe they cut that out. I heard him refer to her as "ugly", so I'm confused about the anti-semitic reference. It's all too bad and very unfortunate. Hopefully he learns from all of this.

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  79. Gertie, I check your blog everyday, but I will comment here for the first time.
    I am noticing the high intellectual & analytical level of your commenters/followers. On any other (non-sewing) blog post, the comments would have been insufferable, besides badly written & spelled. Congratulations on having a great group of people follow you around!

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  80. He was not a genius...simply, he was a man with a great ability to take what has already been created in the past and change it into something "new" and exciting. His ideas were not entirely his...they were not completely original. He took what has already been created and modified it.

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  81. Being a professional seamstress, I'm glad to see the hardworking and no doubt underpaid and under- appreciated tailors and seamstresses get a bit of recognition.

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  82. The problem is that we expect public figures, and artists especially--who create works of beauty and inspiration--to possess inhuman qualities: liberal attitudes (which does happen, of course), purity of spirit and mind, grace, goodness, etc. And then when they turn out to be no more divine than the average human, we're disappointed. I personally think his views are idiotic and reprehensible. Am I surprised by them, given the genius of his work? I agree with what Angela commented: artists and innovators are radical thinkers. They buck convention in so many ways. To think that they will hold the same morals as the general public is naive. That said, his comments and attitudes can't be simply dismissed and shrugged off. They do taint his work somewhat. But he also seems to be the kind of genius "a-hole" who would take credit for the work of others, because it was done under his leadership. The under-designers and craftspeople in his studio are as responsible for the success of his collections as he is himself, and their contributions can't be overlooked. Perhaps knowing this tips the scale a bit toward separating the artist from his "art" since that art was a collaborative effort. But do we know that those under-designers and craftspeople are "good" people, too? Do we know that those men and women don't abuse their spouses or children? That they don't hold religious or political views that we would consider "wrong" or illiberal or insensitive of other people, cultures, religions? We can't know that. If you're going to judge art by the "rightness" of the artists' attitudes and morals, then that cuts quite a bit of art off from being appreciated on its own merits. I believe that art can stand on its own, independent of the artist's views, although they do of course contribute to its effects. Because the viewer brings as much to the art as the artist.

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  83. I also agree with a lot of what Fanny Pinkelton & Michelle have said. I've said many things I don't actually mean just to get the desired reaction from someone else or win an argument. Manipulative and stupid? Yes. Human? Definitely. But there are lines I won't cross--because you also have to be aware of how your words impact those hearing them and how they impact your reputation and speak to your character. And you know the saying "in vino veritas"? There is as much truth in those words as there is in wine, or any other intoxicating substance Galliano might have been abusing. If those are Galliano's true views, then he should get a public beat-down for airing them so publicly and so disgustingly. And he has. His punishment fits his crime. The man has issues, and a house like Dior can't afford to have him wreck their reputation.

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  84. I've just gone through this same exercise with Pink Floyd, found out they're highly anti-Semitic as well. It hurt to have to scratch them from my list of accepted music. Now I will be doing the same with Galliano. I just can't stand the idea of supporting someone who is abhorrent. Let us know your final decision.

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  85. Thanks Gertie, this is interesting and perplexing to a certain degree.
    I can separate the artist from the art, usually. In this case I actually haven't seen the video, I do think that since he was so offensive and not representing DIOR he should be fired. And I love that the workers who brought his sketches to life were recognized, after all in reality his sketches were merely inspiration to them, they are actually the ones that make it into a real tangible Gown.
    When I go to a museum I do not research any of the artists to decide if I will be inspired by their work(unless they become a favorite). Creativity does reflect the person and yet we are all made up of a mixture of beauty and ugliness, as artists we generally strive to tap into that beauty and transform it into something to share with others. We would probably be surprised if every musician, artist, designer, actor, etc. were to have to publish a philosophy of life and it were to match their true beliefs. Musicians in particular seem to be cut a lot of slack while they are spewing hate toward anyone unlike themselves, it's especially revealing if they have a blog etc.
    As huge as this incident is in the fashion world, to me it's less important than companies that have slaves or severely underpaid workers making their products. Saying things that are discriminatory is terrible but obvious, but truly discriminating against a group of people in a way that actually threatens their health and existence and hiding it from the public is SO much more horrible. What if you were inspired by something you saw at a store, then you found out the company had slaves make it? Would that make it any less good design? Or would you have to wipe it from your memory and not use that great silhouette or color based on the philosophy of the company?

    To be inspired by a shape and color... I could not help but be inspired, regardless the source, but to support such a company, no I could not.

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  86. All I have seen of this 'rant' is a 30-second soundbite. Everything else I've 'heard' is hearsay, gossip and speculation, much like the assumption that Disney was anti-Semitic.

    My take of Galliano's 30-seconds is that he was very drunk and trying to shake off harassers by saying the most offensive thing possible. But without the context of what happened before his outburst, I can't really say.

    Now, those individuals who have provided solid evidence of their jerkness, yes, I have a lot of trouble thinking of their art in the same way afterward.

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  87. 1) I don't know if there is more than 1 video of this circulating around, but in the one I saw he is extremely intoxicated, and really seems to be trying to insult the reporter. Plenty of people say terrible things when they're in that sort of state just for the sake of being inflammatory. This doesn't make it acceptable in any way, shape or form, but it's just a little food for thought. I'm not ready to assume his entire world view based on a 2 min. video clip. Again, not making excuses for him, just trying to see things from various angles.

    2)I think we can separate the artist from his work, and we do in innumerable cases. That being said, there is a big difference between appreciating and taking inspiration from an artist and financially supporting that artist. If you feel strongly about the issue, don't buy his designs. It doesn't change the quality of his work. And (if I were a skilled enough seamstress) I wouldn't hesitate to rip off some of his design details.

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  88. I think Mr Galliano is an angry drunk. I see so many of these older man drinking alone in a pub and I know a few. They are angry and and focus their anger on a minority group to feel better.
    I feel sorry for this sad man who has the world.

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  89. I'm actually A fan of Lolita Fashion ( you can read about it here http://www.lolitafashion.org/ or on wikipedia ). And this situation reminds me of what happened with Novala Takemoto (you can read here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novala_Takemoto )
    It's really your own opinion if you have to discredit the designs because his draw backs. I'm sure some great artist were jerks back in the day but no one knows about that much anymore...

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  90. I have thought a lot about this over the years, and I have come to the conclusion that on some level, the artist can never be completely separated from their work. That doesn't mean that we can't appreciate a piece of art for what it is outside of the artist, but if an artist has committed an atrocity, it is hard to view their work with the same respect.

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  91. I was horrified by what he said as I hate all racism. I think that he is a man who is at breaking point who completely lost it due to drink/drugs/mental health issues. I do not think he meant any of it as he believes he has Jewish ancestry and is very proud of this fact.
    It is rather odd that these people caught it on camera (set up anyone?). As we do not get to see all of the conversation we do not know the whole story. Was he provoked (although even if he was why the racist rant?).
    I feel that he needs help. His employers were right to fire him as any racism should never be tolerated but I honestly hope that he is proved to not be one and instead just a man suffering a breakdown who will get well and continue to produce such amazing clothes as he has done in the past.
    Louise

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  92. I honestly don't admirer a fashion designer for their philosophy, but their design. People are criticizing what person he is, but honestly look at the time he grew up in and the location. I am not saying that this train of thought is not backwards, but when he began to put together what is true in the world these kinds of thoughts were more popular than thoughts of equal rights and opportunity.

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  93. @Bobbi Bullard re Pink Floyd.
    Are you refering the accusations over the live show animations of the bombs? That has been pretty categorically denied. The footage showed crosses, crescents, hammer & sickles, shell and mercedes logos etc as well as the star of Davids and dollar signs that caused the controversy. Waters is a critic of Israel's policies, but that doesn't make him anti-semitic.

    I'm not a Pink Floyd fan btw, but I hate when a group such as the Anti-Defamation League in this case, or an individual makes a public accusation based on their personal interpretation which then becomes public belief.

    As for Galliano, I'm unconvinced. I don't believe in drunk words being true opinion. I'd have to know his sober views to be convinced of his beliefs.

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  94. This is a VERY late answer to your post. It is a touchy subject for many - as well it should be! I am from Europe and in the (classical) music business. We all know the great composer Wagner had very questionable political views. Although maybe he didn't have the views, maybe he just sided with them, because he was able to still perform his music that way. His music is still brilliant but I have the same trouble enjoying it, as I will now have with the beautiful gowns of Galliano. But then again I dare say this: I ALWAYS get annoyed when they ask soccer players something that doesn't have anything to do with their sports. I really don't want to hear athletes talk about politics! That's NOT what we admire them for, right?
    Gallianos words change nothing at all about the beauty of his creations. However, I believe we DO give the right signals if we don't support him anymore, as much as that might hurt.

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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