Galliano trial: The designer's depressing anti-Semitism.

Notes from the fashion apocalypse.
June 22 2011 10:39 AM

What Was Galliano Thinking?

The designer's depressing anti-Semitism.

John Galliano. Click image to expand.
John Galliano

Call me crazy, but I see myself as the third name in a glamorous trifecta: Liz Taylor, Ivanka Trump, and me. What do we have in common? We all married nice Jewish boys.

Simon Doonan Simon Doonan

Simon Doonan is an author, fashion commentator, and creative ambassador for Barneys New York.

The trial of designer John Galliano—for those of you who just flew in from Mars, he was accused earlier this year of making anti-Semitic comments during a drunken rant in a Paris bar, and has been charged with committing a hate crime—begins today in France. It's got me thinking about just how incomprehensible I find anti-Semitism to be. Like most people who came up in the fashion world, I am wildly pro-Jew. Jews have been good to me. Jews have always put a roof over my head. They helped me back when I was young, feral, unwashed and ridiculous. I am what you might call a major mitzvah recipient.

There is not enough space here to kvell about all the fabulous Jews who have recklessly and generously enabled my shenanigans over the years, but here are some edited highlights: In the mid-'70s I dressed windows for a glamorous Jewish couple named Shelley and Tony who had a chain of fashion shops dotted about the London area named, amazingly, Sheltone Fashions. While working for Shelley and Tony I picked up extra clams moonlighting at a Jewish-owned office-lady fashion boutique in the City of London named City Girl Jennifer. These high-street jobs gave me a wealth of experience and an extensive knowledge of Yiddish. They also gave me a lifelong addiction to stores with amusing names: I recently heard about a business in midtown Manhattan named Savoir Faire Avec Brenda. I am now terrified something might happen to Brenda, thereby forcing a name change: Savoir Faire Sans Brenda?

Back to my Jew wanderings.

Advertisement

In the late '70s I was plucked from this chiaro-obscurity by a brilliant, creative, and eccentric Jew named Tommy Perse who sponsored my green card and gave me a job at his store, Maxfield, an iconic temple of chic in West Hollywood. Back then I was wilder, younger, and even more disaster-prone than I am now. I relied heavily on my Jewish safety net, and the Jews always came through. When the engine fell out of my '65 Dodge push-button station-wagon, Tommy good-naturedly coughed up the dough to fix it. When I got busted for drunk driving while wearing a plaid bondage punk outfit Tommy helped me find a lawyer.

I would still be working at Maxfield if the equally creative and brilliant Gene Pressman had not given me my job at Barneys, where I have schlepped happily for more than 25 years.

Why did the Jews in my life extend a helping hand to this flailing fagele? Maybe it is because they too are members of a marginalized and oft-reviled group. The difference between a pink triangle and a yellow star is, after all, only three more points. Which brings us back to the fragile, talented Mr. Galliano.

I suspect that John Galliano could, were he thus inclined, tell a story very similar to mine. Now that he is (fingers crossed) sober, I hope he can sincerely acknowledge how much of his success he owes to the kindness and support of Jewish mitzvahs, machers, schmatta kings, fashionistas, and, most importantly, customers. Newsflash: WASPs don't shop! Without the passionate and genuine support of style-obsessed Dior-loving Jewesses, Galliano might be stitching frocks for City Girl Jennifer.

Galliano was not the first fashion personality to randomly and bizarrely bite the hand that feeds. Paging Cecil Beaton! In the February 1938 issue of Vogue, the fashion photographer Beaton bizarrely included the following hate speech into an illustrated border: "Mr. R. Andrew's ball at the El Morocco brought out all the dirty kikes in town." Condé Nast recalled 130,000 copies of the magazine and Beaton resigned. It was, as my Jewish in-laws would say, "A total shonda!" Redemption eventually followed. And then recidivism. Beaton is alleged to have told upper-class Brit pals decades later that he was "glad he did it."

Oy veh! How depressing! Now I really need cheering up.If you know of a more amusing store name than Savoir Faire Avec Brendathen please, I beg you, dollop it into the comments. You will make this aging shiksa very happy.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 9:19 AM Alibaba’s Founder on Why His Company Is Killing It in China
  Life
Outward
Oct. 2 2014 9:58 AM No Word Yet From the Supreme Court on Gay Marriage 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 10:04 AM Wearing the Button-Down Shirt of the Boy You Once Loved
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?