Thursday 23 June 2011

Galliano, Galliano, Galliano let me go-oh-oh-oh

John Galliano is a gifted designer of frocks who, if we had any commercial sense, would be doing business here - like he once was - and helping to make us rich, rather than having to go to Paris to get the world recognition he deserves and generating all the money for LVMH. He'd be living in a small castle in the Cotswolds, have an atelier in Kensington and a factory in East Anglia which would put Paris couture to shame.

Instead, after years of boiling his brain to meet the cut-throat promotions schedule of international fashion houses and the rip-off merchants of mass fashion, including the vampires on all the magazines who rely on him to generate their images and having not a thousandth part of his talent, Galliano hit the bottle and began to mouth-off at gawpers in bars and, allegedly, physically attacked at least one woman. (This charge does not appear to have been pressed).

Where were the friends, the entourage, hangers-on who are supposed to at least pay court to the gifted? What was he doing huddled alone in the corner of a bar, trying to make a home of it? No law against that and where better than Paris for an artist to have a drink and collect the vibe of the streets as it comes up to inform haute couture. Even so, a designer with that much potential wealth creation in his knobbly skull should have had a permanent walker if Dior had cared about its talent. Leaving it to the chauffeur to call a lawyer wasn't the close protection he needed.

Obviously the artistically driven can be difficult to love even when they are sober - and that's putting it mildly - but somebody should have been there to scoop him in to a clinic. John, love, let's go home, let's have another drink, don't talk to them, the taxi is here. It's just another blood-sucker who wants to sell a story about you, lalalala, yes, that's right, let's have a sing-song.

That Dior had to dismiss him after the fracas was inevitable for brand-protection. If you are flogging expensive perfume, cosmetics and diffusion ranges, you really cannot have people who get in to fights with the potential customers. As Simon Doonan points out:
Without the passionate and genuine support of style-obsessed Dior-loving Jewesses, Galliano might be stitching frocks for City Girl Jennifer.
What Galliano said was racially offensive and the judges will be ruling on precisely where those statements stand in French law. But in the general sense, millions of offensive things are said every day. In some mouths it matters, but in Galliano's irrelevant gob it was only significant in that it betrayed that the wicked old idea is still blowing round the French fashion industry. Like we didn't know. People like John don't sit around crafting insults; they copy them from their mates. You might as well blame a weather-cock for the wind.

He could as easily have told the unwelcome strangers to get lost but the half-Spic Gibraltarian from Sarf Lunnon (so not even a proper Cockerney, the mischling) had been in France for so long he forgot he wasn't French, just like he temporarily forgot he was gay and where the iconography of the pink triangle comes from.

What he was aiming for was offensively hip with a hint of Parisian Fuque-vous , a la Sex Pistols 1976, which he might have remembered from when he was a teenager. This is difficult to pull-off when sober, which is probably why it is usually only attempted by the bladdered. They are normally protected by incoherence. Sadly, Galliano had not quite reached that level of inebriation so it was still possible to make out what he was saying.

Note that the video provided via the Sun (who must have paid a pretty penny for it) is not of the incident which the court is ruling on, but an earlier ear-bashing he gave to an Italian pair of women. If it is his usual behaviour, he used English but in a cod French accent, following the convention set by Croft and Perry in 'Allo 'Allo. That's how drenched he got; his mouth spoke English and his brain heard French. Good Moaning.

Ask yourself: if you meet a drunk, do you insist on asking them questions and video it, or do you go away to get on with something more rewarding. I suppose it depends on if you think the poor bastard is good for a bob or two, or if you can sell the pictures.

In the bar-room squabble at issue in court, Galliano acted as if he owned the bar. The bar owner, in deference to a good customer, asked the other customer to change seats, just leave the pissed Brit alone. The customer declined - althought she also didn't own the bar - and instead engaged in a 45 minute slanging-match which ended with Geraldine Bloch being told she had "low-end thighs" (ouch) and her manfriend Philippe Virgitti offering to re-arrange Galliano's head with a bar-stool. Charming, the lot of 'em.

This week they are having another go at humiliating Galliano in court. Bloch wants want one symbolic Euro and an apology printed in the world's leading fashion titles (presumably saying that her derriere is second only to Pippa Middleton's) , while Virgitti, having been all matey earlier on, has now decided that his feelings are so terribly hurt that only money, lots of it, can assuage his flustered honour. A third person is also claiming to have been hurt, but this may be a more complex charge and possibly out of time due to limitations on delay for bringing a complaint. They've already had him sacked and made him grovel. He already apologised, weeks ago. Here, luv, have a Euro from me. Mind you don't spend it all at once, there are Greeks desperate for that much money.

A de-toxed Galliano presented himself to court to show respect rather than sending a sick-note via his lawyer, but wisely determined not to speak French (surely he must have picked up a few words by now) and used an interpreter to make sure that what ever he said this time, it wouldn't upset any one. Vogue is covering the trial, although you'd think they'd take better fashion notes than he was "dressed conservatively". The best trial coverage to date comes via the Daily Beast on Powerwall.

Obviously, there's a great deal of crow pie to be eaten. Never mind the dodgier statements; the French prosecutor has suggested that in France it is a crime amounting to assault to criticise the size of a woman's thighs and the condition of her hair. A damn serious offence, if you ask me. This could be the greater problem for Galliano because the citizens of Planet Fashion don't really care or understand about race or religion but they mind very much indeed if they are accused of having a big fat bum.

For proof of this, look at Cecil Beaton. David Noh recounts that Beaton was being a frightful lovey in 1938 and thought he was pulling off a wizard jape when he included in a sketch in microscopic writing:
"Mr. R. Andrew's ball at the El Morocco brought out all the damned kikes in town."
The editor warned him to remove it, but he threw a hissy fit and somehow it made it in to print, in to the pages of Vogue. But Beaton had enemies and they made sure that journalist Walter Winchell was tipped-off to examine the illustration with a magnifying glass. In the resulting row Beaton was forced to resign. Explanations for his behaviour don't really stack up and he doesn't appear to have made the obvious defence that this merely held up a mirror to what people, fashionistas, were saying when they got together. Despite his public school and Cambridge background, he was gifted artistically rather than intellectually and failed to see that a fashion mag can never risk portraying its customers in anything other than a pool of golden light.

Despite the lull Beaton's career went in to, he emerged triumphant later when he produced the costumes for "My Fair Lady". Beaton collected a CBE in 1956, was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur in 1960 and was knighted in 1972. He didn't get those by calling the gentry a bunch of lardy old trout, which would definitely have seen him skinned. He survived his publishing faux pas because it was only about politics, dahlink.

Politically Galliano can recover if he stays away from subjects he doesn't comprehend and off substances which overwhelm him. He already has a CBE and is a member of the Legion of Honour, so if he stacks up 20 years more of solid job creation over here, he could end up as Sir John of Streatham. Artistically, it may be harder to find his way back to the effortless distillations which mark out his creations at their very best, but I hope he'll try. The reports of his closing collections were sympathetic - there was nothing wrong with the quality of his artistic vision. I hope he sends me a ticket for his show.

Update 28 June: Vogue have published the account of a witness who is claims to have seen the whole argument unfold. Felicitas Michel's telling of it does not involve anti-semitic opinions. The French court allowed the video in evidence which refers to separate event and is NOT the subject of the complaint.

Some commenters on the fashion blogs have pointed out that the rant tape was not saleable or perhaps even useable under French law, which currently takes a wider view of privacy than English law does (or did until recently). The complaint to the police made it possible for News International to risk publishing the video clip.


Update 10 September 2011

John Galliano appeared in court in Paris, which imposed a suspended sentence of a fine of £5,300 on a conviction for "casting public insults based on origin, religious affiliation or ethnicity". This establishes that the bar-room exchange was in what has now been defined as a public place for these purposes.

Galliano was also ordered to pay a symbolic 1 Euro compensation to his victims. Make of that what you will under French law. In English terms it means the judges accept the complaints and that the State has made its case, and mean him to apologise, but don't think much of the complainants. Note, however, that this was precisely what one of the complainants asked for.

The court rejected Galliano's denial that he had said any such thing , although other witnesses backed his version of events.

The Sun - on behalf of News International which paid out for the video of a previous beasting where a pissed Galliano was goaded in to forgetting that he wasn't French and wasn't an edgy intellectual - said, in its print editorial:

"So much for France's pious grandstanding as the champion of decency and human rights"

Les Rosbifs never miss a chance to rag the Frogs, but if that doesn't make you laugh you must have had your funny bone surgically removed.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Plastic pots, plastic education

Clearing out the back of a locker I came across these grotty plastic pots and had a Proustian moment. They came from the days of cookery lessons, or 'food technology' as it was more properly called because it wasn't anything as honest or useful as cooking but it wanted to get itself up as on a par with the technologists (wood work, metal work, chemistry) who in turn wanted to get themselves up with the physics and maths department.

With only one period and a class full of giddy teenagers, the food technology teacher resorted to sending letters which pleaded with the parents to send ingredients weighed out. These would be lightly combined and, if time permitted, heated in some fashion. Sometimes a raw assembly would come back. An uncooked pastry twist is not improved for sloshing about on the bus home.

The constraints made the ingredients very limited. I had no idea you could get an entire curriculum out of wheat, fat and sugar. Fruit was sometimes mentioned and if the teacher was feeling flamboyant, a request would come back for an egg or some milk in a little jar. Once they even asked for garlic, the mad impetuous fools. It meant mashing bottled garlic paste in to butter to make garlic bread. The bread came back - a shop-bought baguette - having had garlic butter surgically introduced. We still had to do the heating, though.

I should have protested when I saw the 'design sheets' for a pizza topping, solemnly planning where to stick the sausage circles on the pre-baked pizza bases. I should have demonstrated. A braver person would have said "If you can't teach something useful, let's sack you and buy some more maths hours or maybe a teacher prepared to do spelling tests and explain punctuation".

But I'm not brave. Besides I just felt so damn sorry for the teacher. It's always the fluffy ones who end up teaching this subject and they have that trembling tearful look of someone who means well but who, for their pains, has been lumbered with all the worst pastoral work. Armed with only a couple of sandwich tins they are supposed to be able to effect profound motivational change. It's not going to happen, is it? Even Jamie Oliver found that trick was harder than he imagined.

So I supervised the measuring-out of ingredients, chaffing that this too was something schools used to teach. Despite my whinging the results must have been alright. At any rate, the greedy beggars ate all the good stuff on the bus home.