John Galliano has been given a suspended €6000 fine after being found guilty on two counts of ‘making public insults based on origin, religion, race or ethnicity’. This follows allegations and a video recording that showed the designer repeatedly using offensive language towards a couple drinking in a Paris bar in February this year. A similar incident took place in October 2010.
Many people feel that Galliano should have been given jail time for his crimes, and it’s an easy assertion to agree with. Regardless of who you are, your heritage or your position in society, there is no excuse for this kind of behaviour and it cannot be brushed aside. He claims he was drunk (video footage of the incident supports this notion), but quite honestly, most of us have been heinously lashed at some point or another in our lives and have managed to restrain ourselves from being anti-semitic. If not from wearing ridiculous hats.
But isn’t jail just the default position we fall to when seeking to punish someone in the worst way possible? In a society where freedom is the most valuable asset we have (even though most of us take it for granted), depriving someone of their liberty seems the most powerful form of retribution.
In John Galliano’s case, I’m not sure this applies. His life’s work has been based on building his own brand in the fashion world – a place where cliques count for everything and reputation is a far more powerful currency than money. His influence was almost unprecented; his own collections, those for Givenchy in the mid-nineties and more recently those for Dior, were considered to be the work of a genuine, bona fide genius.
It doesn’t mean much to most people who don’t operate in that world, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
That’s all gone now. Dior dropped him like he was on fire when the story broke, he was publically denounced by former friends and colleagues including Natalie Portman and Karl Lagerfeld, and will carry the burden of knowing that no matter what he creates in the future, no matter what designer genius he unleashes in years to come, his garments will forever be stained with the ignorance and stupidity that spilled from his lips on those evenings.
He could’ve been jailed for the rest of his life, and it wouldn’t have hurt that much. What’s the point in wasting tax payers’ money on him as well?
Image: FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images.