“Who will replace John Galliano?” isn’t the only question fashion industry minders and commentators have been trying to answer since the designer was fired from Dior for making drunken, anti-Semitic statements in public. They’ve also been wondering what led Galliano to drink enough to think those statements were OK to make, and whether the fashion industry is responsible for his vices and those of other high-profile designers. There are worries that the fashion industry causes its talent to develop substance abuse problems.
WWD talked to a variety of people in its pursuit to figure out who or what is to blame for the high-profile designer’s fall from grace. While the doctors and specialists say the speed of the fashion calendar and the very public role designers play might lead them to seek escape and release from illicit sources, a few designers say you can’t put the blame on the industry itself.
Marc Jacobs, who’s had very public battles with his demons, said that blaming the industry or one’s parents or anything else but yourself is pointless.
Jacobs said he learned in various treatment scenarios that “blaming is such a complete waste. I mean, it’s so pointless. To say, you know, my mother was absent and therefore I ran amok, it’s ridiculous,” said Jacobs, who shows his latest collection for Louis Vuitton today at the tail end of the Paris shows. “It’s a self-destructive nature, it’s a mental, physical and a kind of spiritual malady. If you subscribe to any of the teaching of any of those programs, whether it’s Overeaters Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, people who are happy and healthy and spiritually well don’t do things to hurt themselves.”
Powerhouse creative talent Karl Lagerfeld said it’s up to the designer to keep himself or herself fit for the job.
“I see designing, running a company, like a high-level athletic activity,” said Karl Lagerfeld. “I don’t want to hear anything about the fragility or any of those things. If an athlete is too fragile to run, he cannot run. And this is exactly the same. You don’t accept this kind of business if you’re too much of an artist.
“I believe in discipline, so I’m not the right person to cry about weakness and things like this, but maybe I’m not human.”
And maybe he’s not — but most designers are met with superhuman demands on an everyday basis. Most designers aren’t drug addicts who curse at people they meet in bars while friends are filming them.
So who’s to blame for what happened to Galliano? (Or what happened to Calvin Klein, Donatella Versace or Stefano Pilati, all of whom have talked publicly about their struggles with substance abuse?) Until he talks about his demons publicly, too, we won’t know for sure. But we’re guessing a lot of it has to do with him, and not the business of fashion.