LONDON, United Kingdom — It’s been one of those weeks when designers dominate the fashion news. Following an interview with Ingrid Sischy that appeared in Vanity Fair earlier this month, John Galliano, the disgraced former designer of Dior, whose reign at the hallowed house came to an abrupt end just over two years ago after an anti-Semitic rant in a Parisian bar, sat down with American journalist and talk show host Charlie Rose to discuss his traumatic childhood, the intense pressures of fashion’s relentless cycle and the demands of producing 32 collections a year, his addiction to alcohol and road to recovery.
It was interesting to note the role that the fashion establishment has played in setting up Galliano’s return from exile. He singled out both Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Conde Nast International, and American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour as the two individuals that have guided him in his journey of self-reflection, and by extension, given their endorsement for his return to fashion. Galliano also discussed his recent work with Oscar de la Renta, who also helped paved the way for his return by inviting him into his studio as a designer in residence in the lead up to the brand’s Autumn/Winter 2013/2014 show.
But, in the end, it’s not the fashion establishment who will have the last say on whether Mr Galliano’s tentative comeback will be accepted. That will come down to the end consumer, most of whom were witness to the video of Mr Galliano’s drunken, drug-fueled rant which exploded online and which has been played over and over again in the aftermath of Mr Galliano’s final meltdown. Indeed, no matter how many of the biggest names in the fashion establishment welcome him back, no global fashion business will risk having themselves associated with someone who may still cast a pallor on their sparkling brand identities.
Not surprisingly, when the video interview broke on Thursday, there was an explosion of discussion on blogs, Facebook and other social media discussing Mr Galliano’s mea culpa. On our Facebook page, scores of readers commented on the interview — and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Aziza Ben Hamadi wrote: “The man is a genius, and as a genius he has his flaws. I think he’s BRILLIANT! And the fashion world needs him!” Melanie Saint-Jean, apparently speaking for many people based on the number of likes her own comment received, argued: “He has cleaned himself up, he looks amazing and he deserves another chance just like everyone else.” It seems the wider public may also be ready to welcome Galliano back, but it has not been an easy ride.
There are lessons here for all designers — and brands. And indeed, while Mr Galliano continues on his personal journey, some designers, including Jason Wu and Katie Hillier, are adding new responsibilities and roles to their already bursting repertoires, while others, including Reed Krakoff and, reportedly, Marc Jacobs, are planning their exits after years of non-stop pressure from an ever-faster fashion cycle. What’s clear is while brands need creative directors more than ever, we need to ensure that we, as an industry, find a balance so we can benefit from their wells of creativity without sucking them completely dry. As for Mr Galliano, I think he would be the perfect fit for Schiaparelli, the surrealist fashion brand currently being re-launched by Tod’s boss Diego Della Valle. Let’s see if, and where, the designer re-emerges.
In other news this week, our newest contributing editor Robb Young unraveled the mystery of the madoguchi, the gatekeepers of Japanese fashion who enable Western buyers to access some of the coolest and hardest to find fashion on the planet. Reading his story, I remembered my own first trip to Tokyo when W. David Marx helped me to navigate the amazing, labyrinthine Tokyo fashion scene. I’m now hankering to get back as soon as I can.
But Japan’s fashion market isn’t all about hidden-away stores and secretive designers. As one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, Japan is also the place to look for the digital future of the fashion business, where e-commerce players are reporting that the mobile channel is driving up to forty percent of their revenues. Our friends at Japan Consuming analysed the market opportunity and reported on the growing number of mobile commerce start-ups attracting millions of dollars in capital.
Back here in the UK, with London Collections: Men on the calendar for this weekend, we analysed the business impact of all the attention being showered on the city’s new menswear showcase, and columnist Susie Bubble shared her love for rising menswear talent Alan Taylor, who will be showing this week. BoF will be out and about at the shows this weekend, reporting live on Instagram and Twitter to share the excitement with you. Stay tuned.
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The Gatekeepers Who Hold the Keys to Japanese Fashion (Intelligence)
In Japan, Mobile Commerce Attracts New Capital (Global Currents)
Bubble and Speak | Alan Taylor (Opinion)