The Self-Destruction Of John Galliano, Fashion's King Of Excess

Until now, the designer’s provocations were reserved for the catwalk. Accused of anti-Semitism and dumped by Dior, a profile of fashion's broken enfant terrible.

The Self-Destruction Of John Galliano, Fashion's King Of Excess

By Joël Morio

PARIS – For several hours on Monday, fashion designer John Galliano was confronted face-to-face by his accusers, who charge him with having made anti-Semitic statements at a Paris bar last week. According to sources close to the inquiry, no witness has come forward to confirm the version of events presented by the designer, who denies the charges.

But beyond the judicial investigation into alleged racist statements, which is a crime in France, the altercation between a couple and the artistic director of the Christian Dior fashion house took on a surreal feel as the Paris catwalks began to unveil the latest women's ready-to-wear collection for fall/winter 2011. Another complaint, on similar grounds, was registered as British tabloid The Sun published on its website a video in which we hear the designer, visibly drunk, declaring his admiration for Hitler. By late Tuesday, in light of the video, Dior announced it was firing Galliano, who'd been suspended since the initial accusations.

The enfant terrible of couture had carved out a reputation in recent years as a man who loves to party, revels in excess and obsesses over his appearance. Several Galliano confidantes were willing to speak anonymously, expressing surprise by his behavior. "I never would have suspected that he could show any sign of racism or anti-Semitism," confided one. He is unanimously described as nice: "He is respectful toward his assistants, unlike many designers," said one associate.

The price of extravagance

Since the beginning, the Briton wunderkind has shown an appetite for provocation. His fashion shows unfold like a well-conceived screenplay. The small world of fashion often jams into his shows more for the spectacle than the clothes, which are often as extravagant as the production itself.

Galliano was a curious choice to replace aristocrat Hubert de Givenchy upon his retirement. Galliano's first haute couture show in January 1996 was met with tepid applause. "He showed a sense of a bias cut, a taste for fitted jackets and coquettishness in his creations," recalls Marie-Christine Marek. Bernard Arnault, the CEO of LVMH, the parent company of Givenchy, was nevertheless impressed by the media reactions to the show.

The name of Vivienne Westwood, queen of punk couture, had been floated to replace Gianfranco Ferré as the artistic director for Dior's women's collections, which was experiencing something of a period of stagnation. But Mr. Arnault saw in the iconoclastic Briton someone who could boost the brand, one to which he is particularly attached. Not much later, at 36 years old, Galliano was given carte blanche to express his aesthetic style and taste for production. He was able to count on seemingly unlimited financial backing.

Galliano infused life into the couture atelier with dresses that displayed his technical prowess and often pulled from the history of fashion. He admires the wraps of Vionnet, the work of Balenciaga and for Dior, of course, mining the maison's massive archives. His first collection for the Avenue Montaigne fashion house was inspired by the "new look." John Galliano created a dress for Princess Diana for the 50th anniversary of the label. Sales soared.

Yet each collection became a battle. Some declared him a genius, others labeled him the grim reaper of French elegance. Passions peaked in 2000 after the "Homeless' collection was unveiled, featuring paper bags and fragments of clothing held together with string. No matter: Dior made the front page of all the papers.

Five years later, the designer we believed to be wiser came back to provoke. In a cabaret-style production, he put giants and dwarfs on display, the fat and thin, ugly and beautiful, young and old. "I am never provocative just to be provocative. I provoke in order to elicit an emotion or sometimes a debate," Galliano explained in an interview with Le Monde in January 2007. But now, the radiance of Galliano is tarnished. This crisis has brought him unwanted attention. It is no longer about spectacular shows, nor star designers. Many observers believe that the recent escapades of Galliano may irrevocably tarnish his image.

Can Galliano, 50, recover from the debacle in Paris? Last March, he told Le Figaro's Madame magazine: "I do not imagine fashion as destructive. We work on many different projects at one time, it moves very quickly and will never stop." But for now, this particular screenplay is frozen in a public spectacle of self-destruction.

Read the original article in French.

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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