In the six or nine months or 12 months that it will take to rehabilitate John Galliano's post Dior reputation, what would a cynic come up with by way of damage control strategy?
Is there to be a post-rehab mea culpa on Oprah or in Vogue, (tears optional) . A special event presentation on the London Show Week calendar to signal "John's return to his roots" . Or if not, simply a sober if stirring showing of his undeniable craftsmanship on the Paris calendar, say a year from now.
In the past week I've not added anything to the noise around John Galliano's fall from grace, Christophe Decarnin's apparent breakdown at Balmain or the growing signs of strain in the mythology of the luxury designer . I mean the phone has been ringing and the squad has been hissing with assorted conspiracy theories of how the new LVMH chessboard will shape up now. And yet it occurred to me that what used to pass as mischievous acts of speculation three years ago has become a serious mainstream media game. Idle speculation (and let me tell you there are many an idle gossip girl working the beat these days) can show up in the highest of media venues these days . And the consequences can be truly dire. I mean what if there hadn't been that camera-phone that day at La Perle?
Thinking about that easy expectation that Riccardo Tisci is going to automatically jump from Givenchy to Dior, it seems to me there's a huge strategic challenge with that ascension. Givenchy, pre-Tisci, has been a very problematic house . From McQueen's tumultuous relationship with LVMH during his tenure , to Julien MacDonald's lost years and the unfocused menswear moment with Boateng, the House Of Givenchy has always struggled for an identity. Until Mr Tisci comes along and creates this street informed, trend driven, provocative punk catholic ideal around the blank heart of Givenchy. Even then, how long did it take the fashion market to internalize that vision? Was it not something like 5 years? So now do you cut Tisci's momentum at Givenchy, just at the point that he has brought the house to a point of undeniable relevancy? Switching Tisci to Dior creates the potential of truncating an exciting narrative and then introducing yet another aesthetic in the name of Givenchy , a tactic that may very well confuse the newly seduced Givenchy consumer. And then what becomes of the newly coveted Givenchy menswear brand?
And then that leads to the the question of the ultra-romantic, super-feminine aesthetic Galliano constructed around Dior. True , Tisci's Spring 2010 Givenchy couture showing more than amply proved his ability to render the kind of classical romanticism that typifies the tradition of couture. But how long can he suppress the urge to paint the pink rose goth black? The idea of Albaz's way with dressmaking extenuated into couture is probably the kind of marketable calculation a house with such big numbers might be drawn to,. That is IF Albaz would be gettable under the circumstances.
Which then leaves how many options? Stalling for time with a talented in house design team until the perfect couturier comes along? Trying to lure Theyskens or Alaia who have both said no to LVMH time and time again? Gamble on Ackerman? Disrupt Marc Jacobs? And please keep Hedi Slimane out of it. He's probably looking at that Galliano scenario where the very name "John Galliano" is now still majority owned by LVMH and figuring out how to keep his distance from the frenzy . For the brilliant minds at LVMH it is a lot of thinking to do with some pretty mega-high financial stakes involved.
You never really stop to think of "luxury" as a moral proposition. But I've always thought that if you are to charge someone a lot of money for a fashion thing, there is a kind of moral obligation embedded in the transaction. The product you are offering should represent an ideal of the "the best thing possible"…whether in terms of material, craftsmanship and finish, packaging and service. Look at the butterfly wing of it all …a drunken spew of spiteful words upending such a big machine. What is the moral of all of this? We've never been encouraged to think of fashion as a terribly moral culture. If you are skinny, pretty and can put together mad looks for the paparazzi, that's a moral achievement no? If you're supremely talented and can whip up ultra-marketable bags and shoes and fragrances then everything else that comes with your package is its own justification. But the one good thing that might come out of the behind-the-scenes debacles of Paris Fall 2011 is that the word "luxury" still has a relationship, no matter how tenuous, to quality of conduct.