John Galliano, the star designer sacked by Dior for a drunken anti-Semitic rant, has been successfully rebuilding both himself and the Maison Margiela fashion brand since he took over its helm in October, said the man who gave him the job.
Diesel founder Renzo Rosso, chairman and main shareholder of Maison Margiela’s parent OTB group, said sales were already up 20 percent at the fashion house even though only a few of Galliano’s pieces had so far reached the shelves.
Galliano, widely hailed as one of the most talented designers of his generation, fell from grace in 2011 after a video went viral of him drunk in a Paris bar, saying “I love Hitler” and telling a couple their ancestors should have been gassed.
Galliano blamed addiction to drugs and alcohol for the rant, said the remarks did not represent his real views and went through a public period of rehabilitation sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, a charity that fights anti-Semitism.
Speaking at an event hosted by three London synagogues over the weekend, the disgraced designer apologized for his past comments. “I am an alcoholic. I am an addict,” he said. “This is in no way an excuse. We alcoholics and we addicts are not responsible for our disease. However, I do take complete responsibility for my recovery and making amends.” He added: “I get a daily reprieve from this disease and that comes from total abstinence.”
He emerged with a job at Oscar de la Renta in New York in 2013 before Rosso tapped him last year to take over the house founded by Martin Margiela, a designer known for being as self-effacing as Galliano is flamboyant.
“John is a real pro, I am so happy to have him,” Rosso told Reuters at his company’s headquarters, an hour’s drive from Venice.
“He is a not a designer but a couturier and has great pyramidal thinking - turning couture concepts into ready-to-wear clothing and accessories,” added the tattooed 59-year-old Italian entrepreneur.
Galliano’s appointment raised eyebrows last year, not only because of his controversial past but also because of the contrast between his persona and that of Maison Margiela’s reclusive founder.
Martin Margiela did not stitch his name on his products, never took a bow after runway shows and refused to be interviewed or photographed. He disappeared from public life and gave up fashion after resigning in 2009. Sources have told Reuters he is now living incognito in Paris, spending most of his time painting.
It seemed an odd fit for the famously preening Galliano, but the fashion industry seems to have embraced both the British-born designer’s repentance and his new role at a house with a decidedly different profile than his own.
This week’s edition of Paris Match, the best-selling French weekly magazine, carries on its cover a photo of lawyer Amal Clooney, the media-darling wife of film star George, in a red dress designed by Galliano for Maison Margiela.
Rosso said he thought of hiring Galliano the minute he got sacked from Dior and from his own brand John Galliano, which is still controlled by Dior, part of the LVMH group.
Sales at Margiela now exceeded 100 million euros ($110 million), Rosso said. The brand has been profitable since 2013, after more than a decade under OTB (Only the Brave) ownership.
Before tapping Galliano, Rosso said he consulted Martin Margiela who enthusiastically endorsed his choice.
“Martin told me I could not give his brand a better present as Galliano was the designer he admired the most,” Rosso said.
Margiela met Galliano for hours in Paris, giving him guidance but telling him of the brand: “make it your own,” Rosso said.
Rosso, one of Italy’s richest men, made his fortune with the stone-washed brand Diesel he founded in 1978, which he grew with off-the wall ad campaigns. One featured a woman in a denim burqa, another had two male sailors kissing, and another showed a model on a giant cigarette with the slogan “how to smoke 145 a day.”
Two years ago, he hired Lady Gaga’s former stylist, Nicola Formichetti, to “reboot” the fashion label. Now he is preparing a new ad campaign with Formichetti, who has worked a lot on Diesel’s core products such as jeans and leather jackets, but he said it would not be as provocative as in the past.
“Today, I cannot be as crazy as I was before,” Rosso said. “The world has changed. You constantly have to be careful not to offend anyone.”
Diesel has sacrificed more than 85 million euros in revenue in the past year to clean up its distribution, particularly on the Internet, where too many discounted items were sold, Rosso said.
In 2014, OTB’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), fell to 117.4 million euros from 138.1 million in 2013, on net sales of 1.5 billion euros, down 1.2 percent, but up 0.5 percent when excluding foreign exchange impacts. Diesel represents more than 65 percent of sales.
While Rosso serves as chairman, OTB is run by joint CEOs Riccardo Stilli and Rosso’s son Stefano, who have said they are on the lookout for potential acquisitions of up to 500 million euros. Two years ago, it bought Italian fashion brand Marni, which should become profitable next year when sales exceed 150 million euros, Renzo Rosso said.
Rosso said he was contemplating an initial public offering (IPO) but not before five years, a move which could coincide with his decision to resign as chairman, he added.
“I think an IPO would give stability to the group and make employees feel safer,” he said.
In the jetset world of fashion, Rosso remains something of an iconoclast. He criticized other fashion brands for wining, dining and flying journalists around the world to attend shows, write reviews and post images on their Instagram and Twitter accounts.
“How independent can these journalists’ reviews be?” asked Rosso about journalists and bloggers who stay in luxury hotels and travel for free to attend fashion shows.
Last month, Chanel flew journalists to Seoul to see its cruise collection. Then it was Louis Vuitton in Palm Springs and later Dior in Cannes, just before the film festival.
This month, Kering’s Gucci is taking journalists to New York to view the first cruise collection of its new designer, Alessandro Michele.
“Thanks to these social media tools, brands get a lot of publicity… But I think such methods can put off the young generation, who realize what is going on,” Rosso said.
People at Chanel, Gucci and LVMH’s Dior and Louis Vuitton say the brands traditionally pay for trips because journalists cannot afford them. All the brands declined to comment.
The British fashion designer John Galliano lost his lawsuit against Christian Dior for unfair dismissal.
The decision by a Paris employment court was announced Tuesday.
Galliano, who was fired in March 2011 after being filmed making anti-Semitic statements at a Paris bar, was ordered to pay Dior one symbolic euro. He had sued for lost earnings of up to $16 million, claiming that the fashion house was aware of his alcohol and drug addictions before the incident.
In the video, Galliano stated his love for Adolf Hitler and told people he believed were Jewish that their mothers should have been gassed. He later blamed his outbursts on addictions to drugs and alcohol.
“It’s the worst thing I have said in my life, but I didn’t mean it,” Galliano said in an interview with Vanity Fair in an article in the July 2013 issue.
A French court ruled in September 2011 that Galliano in several incidents had made “public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity.” He was sentenced to a suspended fine and no jail time.
Following the anti-Semitic tirade, actress Natalie Portman, who was serving as a spokeswoman for Dior, issued a statement condemning Galliano and said “I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”
Last month, Galliano was hired as the creative director of the Paris-based fashion house Maison Martin Margiela.
Guess what? John Galliano feels bad.
In an exclusive interview with Vanity Fair, Galliano publicly apologized for the anti-Semitic remarks that got him fired from Dior in 2011.
“It’s the worst thing I have said in my life, but I didn’t mean it …” the disgraced fashion designer told contributing editor Ingrid Sischy. ” I have been trying to find out why that anger was directed at this race. I now realize I was so f***|ing angry and so discontent with myself that I just said the most spiteful thing I could.”
Galliano added that he has been sober for two years, and that this will be his first sober interview. “I never drank in order to be creative, or to do the research,” he said. “I didn’t need alcohol for any of that. At first alcohol was like a crutch outside of Dior. Then I would use it to crash after the collections. I’d take a couple of days to get over it, like everyone. But with more collections, the crash happened more often, and then I was a slave to it. Then the pills kicked in because I couldn’t sleep. Then the other pills kicked in because I couldn’t stop shaking. I would also have these huge bottles of liquor that people got for me. Towards the end, it was whatever I could get my hands on. Vodka, or vodka-and-tonic. Wine, in the belief it would help me sleep. Wrong. I did manage to stop the voices. I had all these voices in my head, asking so many questions, but I never for one second would admit I was an alcoholic. I thought I could control it.”
Galliano has tried to show remorse for his remarks by educating himself on the Holocaust and Jewish culture, and has met with Jewish leaders like Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League — a surprising supporter of the designer’s efforts. “He is trying very hard to atone,” Foxman has said in the past.
But what to do with the penitent designer? As Forward Editor-In-Chief Jane Eisner put it in a recent editorial: “Is Galliano a permanent affront to Jews and to all good-hearted people everywhere? Or is he, in the words of his unlikely defender, Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation Leagure, a “poor shnook” with an addiction problem who is trying to make amends?”
Only time will tell.
The interview is available in full in the July 2013 issue of Vanity Fair.
The New School’s Jewish Student Union has put out a petition protesting John Galliano’s teaching appointment at the Parsons School of Design.
“We do not want money from our tuition going to this kind of person. We feel like we’ve been slapped in the face by our school. There should be no room for this kind of person as a staff member on the faculty at Parsons,” the petition statement reads.
“Imagine if the school were hiring a person who publicly voiced support for the KKK — there would likely be backlash because it’s not right to have someone like that teaching at a school. But because this is someone who has made anti-Semitic remarks, people are willing to look the other way. This is unacceptable.”
The Parsons School of Design announced on Monday that John Galliano would be teaching a 3-day design workshop called “Show Me Emotion.”
“It doesn’t matter if its for three months or three days,” the statement added, “hiring someone who has made such horrific comments shows that the school values Galliano over their entire Jewish student body.”
Galliano was fired from Dior in 2011 after he was caught on video making anti-Semitic remarks in a Paris cafe. The New School JSU included the video in its petition (see it below).
The JSU calls on students and alumni to sign the petition and write an email to David Van Zandt, the president of the The New School, and Joel Towers, the dean of Parsons, calling for Galliano’s resignation. So far, 110 people have signed.
NEW YORK — Disgraced fashion designer John Galliano is continuing his public image rehabilitation with an upcoming stint teaching a master class at one of New York’s leading design schools.
Galliano, who was fired by Dior in 2011 after he was caught on camera making anti-Semitic remarks in a Paris cafe, will teach a course titled “Show Me Emotion” at Parsons The New School For Design, the school said on Monday.
Parsons said the class “will be a dynamic and intimate opportunity for our students to learn from an immensely talented designer.”
“We believe that over the past two years Galliano has demonstrated a serious intent to make amends for his past actions,” the school added.
Earlier this year, the 52-year-old British designer, widely thought of as one of the most talented and creative names in fashion, spent several weeks working at Oscar de la Renta’s studio in New York, preparing for de la Renta’s New York Fashion Week show in February.
A French court handed out a 6,000-euro ($8,000) suspended fine to Galliano in 2011 after he was found guilty of anti-Semitic behavior. Galliano has said an addiction to drugs and alcohol had left him out of control and he was determined to make amends.
Parsons said students in the master class “will have the opportunity to engage in a frank conversation with Mr. Galliano about the challenges and complications of leading a design house in the 21st century.”
Following his Dior dismissal, Galliano designed British model Kate Moss’s wedding dress.
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