Don’t Be Racist (or, Haley Wornette’s Thoughts on John Galliano)

Very little about the whole John Galliano mess surprised me – the allegations seemed plausible, and the video was just the proverbial nail in the coffin. Even though I know it’s supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, I also know that where there is smoke there is usually a racist. (That’s the expression, right?)

What did surprise me, and I mean this in the best possible way, was LVMH’s swift and decisive action: immediate suspension, followed by termination. It surprised me because it seemed like such a reasonable response to a terrible situation. Lets be real, the fashion industry is not known for handling these situations reasonably.

In any other profession, just the allegations of offenses like anti-Semitism, racism, sexual assault, or child labour law violations would be enough to get someone fired. Yet when it comes to people in fashion – be they designers like Galliano, editors, stylists, photographers – there seems to be a never-ending stream of people who rush to the guilty party’s defense. It’s all a conspiracy. He’s a sweetheart. He was provoked. She apologized. You’re being too hasty. By far the worst defense I saw was that Galliano could not possibly be racist because “[his] multi-ethnic shows, celebrating the beauty of nomadic worlds, and looking into visual languages of forgotten minorities (from everywhere on this planet), has brilliantly proved it to everyone from collection to collection since years.” Being “inspired” by a culture’s fashion doesn’t mean you can’t hate the people wearing it.

The fashion industry does not get a free pass on bad behaviour just because they happen to create great clothes. It goes without saying that John Galliano is an incredibly talented designer, but he’s an employee of LVMH first. An employee who professes to love Hitler simply cannot remain on the payroll of a responsible corporation. Well played, LVMH – I hope that more businesses follow in your example. Most importantly I hope one day I won’t feel like applauding those who stand up for basic ethics like “don’t be racist.”

- Haley Mlotek