The designer expresses fresh contrition for the scandal that precipitated his 2011 departure from Dior, while Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue urges forgiveness
Last modified on Mon 2 Jul 2018 15.03 BST
John Galliano, the fashion designer sacked from Dior following an antisemitic rant in 2011, has appeared in a talk alongside Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue in London as he seeks to make amends.
The event was part of a Jewish educational project organised by the Central, New West End and Western Marble Arch Synagogues and took place at the BDO accountancy firm in London. Galliano looked nervous as he walked on stage, wearing a smart suit with a lavender tie, his long hair tied back. It was the most recent in a series of low-key appearances. The designer has recently re-entered the fashion world, showing his first collection as creative director of Maison Margiela earlier this year, and is seeking to rehabilitate his image.
“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.”
The Gibraltar-born designer said that he “wasn’t living” in the runup to his collapse, struggling with the pressure of creating 32 collections a year for Dior and his eponymous label. Asked whether he would have left Dior had he not been sacked in 2011, he said: “I think I would be dead.”
Galliano said that he had used the “four years and four months” since the rant to move forward. “I used to blame everyone for what happened, but now I bear no resentment. I have finally come to terms with what happened and what was my part in it.” He said that, since returning to work, he had been trying to keep some perspective on the “all-consuming passion” for fashion, laughing at the idea of “talking about shiny black or matt black for two hours”. He was applauded by the audience.
After his collapse, Galliano spent time in drug rehabilitation at the Meadows clinic in Arizona. He was also given a suspended fine of €6,000 (£4,310) by a French court for racist and antisemitic rants. Aside for a spell designing couture for Oscar de la Renta, he stayed out of the limelight until late last year, when his new role at conceptual Belgian label Maison Margiela was announced.
Marcus has played a key role in Galliano’s public rehabilitation – he sat in the front row at the designer’s first Margiela show in January – and told the audience that Galliano should not be treated “more harshly” than an “endless list of celebrities” who had made controversial statements about Jews, including the actor Mel Gibson and the former MPs George Galloway and David Ward.
“That is not the Jewish way,” he said. “We should show a little graciousness.” Marcus told the audience that Galliano was looking for compassion. “I want to talk about forgiveness,” said Marcus. “I am asking because most people, apart from the angels among us, most of us have done something we regret.”
The fashion designer said that he was back on his “spiritual path” since being filmed swearing and using racist terms in a Paris bar. “God is in the driving seat, not me. Before it was self will, but now it is God’s will,” he said, adding that he spoke to God “every day”.
Galliano, who grew up in London, was known for his flamboyant on-stage appearances at the end of his design shows, but he insisted that he had battled with shyness throughout. “I’m quite shy person. It took a lot of courage to walk into these parties and stay around and talk to people, but it’s part of what we do.”