I am kind of disappointed in the coverage of Galliano’s last collection for Dior. Mostly because it seems to be a big missed opportunity in terms of discussing fashion and more importantly, the beauty standards imposed by the fashion industry.
Here’s what I see in this whole affair: Galliano’s disgusting anti-Semitism, racism, and drunk vindication of Hitler and the Holocaust, has to have a correlation in his overall aesthetic. Racism and prejudice do not happen in a vacuum, they translate into concrete actions and choices in everyday life. Galliano didn’t just express his support for a tyrant that caused the mass murder and torture of six million people. He also expressed, by transitive ideological property, his admiration for a regime that promoted a certain body type, a certain physiognomy, a certain consequence for those who did not adhere to these ideals of race and beauty. In a runway that systematically leaves those who are not White, very slim and blond outside the mainstream, Galliano defined, I suspect unintentionally, an aesthetic that runs rampant in the fashion world: the erasure of those who look different.
Galliano is now the festering wound in the industry of beautification. He is the one who spoke the unspeakable. But it seems we haven’t been paying enough attention to what he has been saying, through his work, all these years. His collections, and in general with a few noble exceptions, all fashion collections, have no room for the differently-bodied, for non-Whites, for those that deviate from very narrowly defined standards. The only few “fat” people we ever see in runways are tokenized, almost like a caricature of “fatness,” only to be presented as the Other in a sea of approved bodies. We hardly ever (I would say NEVER, but perhaps I would be proven wrong) see any disabled bodies, any bodies that might look different than the approved “coat hangers” the fashion industry utilizes regularly. The history of contemporary fashion is troubled and problematic in ways we hardly hear about. As the Daily Mail (of all places!) points out in an article today:
Fashion needs to look to its own history of collaboration. Dior dressed the wives of Nazis, Hugo Boss was in the Nazi party. Dior’s niece married the British National Socialist Movement leader.
Galliano’s outburst is not gratuitous. I contend it’s a symptom of something that is much more insidious and pervasive than the rants of a pathetic drunk. However, discussing the ubiquitous ideals of beauty supported by the entire fashion industry (which obviously have to come from somewhere, which obviously weren’t created in isolation from fashion’s own history) would be much more painful and would require some deep and sincere reflection. I reckon many would prefer to point at the drunk and let him be the subject of social condemnation (which he undoubtedly deserves), rather than look at fashion’s own backyard and take the poisonous weed from its root.
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