New York culture bloggers, writers and designers applauded Christian Dior's move to fire its long-time chief designer John Galliano on Tuesday over anti-Semitic remarks he allegedly made in a Paris bar.
"It's wonderful to see an established fashion company like Dior finally drawing such a clear line against bigotry," Minh-Ha T. Pham, one of the founders of the pop culture, fashion and political blog threadbared, told WNYC in an e-mail. Pham splits her time between New York and San Francisco. "We've seen way too many times how fashion elites and their supporters make excuses for the pervasive racism in fashion editorials, runways shows, and fashion films. Usually, they try to slip racism past the public under the cloak of art and avant-gardism."
The Paris fashion house, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, announced that it would fire Galliano because of a video made public Monday that exhibited "deeply offensive statements and conduct" from the British designer. "We unequivocally condemn the statements made by John Galliano which are in total contradiction to the longstanding core values of Christian Dior," Sidney Toledano, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Christian Dior Couture, said in a Dior press release.
In the video, which you can watch here, Galliano says: "I love Hitler" and "People like you would be dead...your mothers, your forefathers would all be...gassed." According to the YouTube video description, which was posted by the user mosquewatcher, the clip was taken at La Perle, the Paris cafe where Galliano was arrested over assault charges in a separate incident last Thursday. On Friday, Dior announced it had suspended its relationship with Galliano until the police investigation had been completed.
Meg Clark, a Brooklyn writer and photographer who founded good morning midnight, a feminist L.B.G.T.Q. fashion blog, found Dior's decision to fire Galliano appropriate. "Too often we let such offenses slide as mistakes or misdemeanors because they come from celebrities or great talents, and it is a strong public statement for Dior to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on that kind of behavior," Clark told WNYC in an e-mail. "While Galliano was obviously troubled, it was no excuse for his actions, and I hope that Dior's swift actions contribute to a stronger precedent for fairness and equality in the industry."
Another New York City designer, Minna Kao, said she was appalled by Galliano's alleged actions. "It's unfortunate because my friends and peers all respected his talent," she said. "Christian Dior was, and is, one of my favorite design houses, and at the moment I can not look at any of the gowns without being reminded of Galliano."
Thuy Linh Tu, who teaches in N.Y.U.'s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and is the author of a book about Asian American designers called "The Beautiful Generation: Asian Americans and the Cultural Economy of Fashion," agreed that designers should be held accountable for what they say. But Tu added that censuring individual outbursts like Galliano's did little to address racial inequalities in the fashion industry. "We can't excuse this behavior, but we could perhaps show more outrage at how certain racist images still travel very freely within fashion and how certain people are still struggling to make ends meet in this industry," she said. "John Galliano will be fine. I'm not really worried about him."
Actress Natalie Portman, who won an Oscar on Sunday and is a spokesmodel for Christian Dior perfume, said she was "shocked and disgusted" by the video. "As an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way," she said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.
Galliano denies the charges.
Dior's move comes in the midst of 2011/2012 fall to winter ready-to-wear fashion shows, which kicked off in Paris on Tuesday. The label is scheduled to present its line on Friday.
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