Few people at Oscar de la Renta's Fall 2013 fashion show on Wednesday noticed British designer John Galliano, who had collaborated on the designer's highly praised 50th anniversary collection.
The ousted Dior designer – fired in 2011 for making anti-Semitic slurs (caught on video) to a couple in a Paris bar – stayed backstage and was hardly recognizable in a bizarre layered outfit – including a rounded large hat, short trousers and curled long sideburns.
The New York Post photographed him on his way to the show and ran a photo with the headline “Jew-bash Designer Gallino’s costume Mocks Faithful.” The paper even got some local Jewish leaders to comment on his clothing
“He’s trying to embarrass people in the Jewish community and make money on clothes [while] dressed like people he has insulted,” Williamsburg community leader Isaac Abraham told the Post.. "It looks like the hairstyle he added was done purposely to insult.”
While Galliano is known for his wildly eccentric period garb, this look did -- at first glance -- appear a bit ill-conceived and ill-timed.
His publicist Liz Rosenberg (who also reps Cher) took up his defense in her comments to WWD. “Regarding his attire yesterday: As you well know, John has worn big hats and long coats for many, many years,” Rosenberg wrote. “He indeed has long curly hair, and I can understand people/the NY Post misinterpreting his look at the show. But I can assure you there was no intent to dress in a Hasidic style, to present himself as an homage to the Hasidic community or to insult the Jewish culture or pay tribute to people in 17th century Poland on John’s part — consciously or unconsciously. His attire included a Steven Jones hat, Yohji Yamamoto trousers, Brooks Brothers shirt, Dolce & Gabbana vest. In other words — fashionable. The last thing on John’s mind would be to do anything that would offend the Jewish community.”
Others with no vested interest in the designer's rep or his return to the fashion world also took up his cause.
“Anyone familiar with the dress of traditional Orthodox Jews should not mistake what Galliano is wearing in the photograph as ‘Hasidic garb,’” Abraham H. Foxman wrote in a statement posted yesterday on the Anti-Defmation League website, calling the New York Post story a complete distortion, explaining: “Hasidim do not wear fedora hats, pinstripe pants, blue jackets or an ascot tie.”
He added: "This is John Galliano being John Galliano. His dress is always eccentric and his hair is always worn long. This is, at the very least, ignorance on the part of the reporters and editors at the Post, or, at worst, a deliberate, malicious distortion in an effort to sell newspapers."
After he was found guilty of racist slurs, fired from Dior and his own collection and stripped of his French Legion of Honor medal and consequently entered himself into rehab, he began studying Jewish literature and religion and learning about the Holocaust .
Jewish leaders have praised him for his dedication to his recovery and his amends to the Jewish community. And many in the fashion industry -- Donna Karan, Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Valentino, Rachel Zoe, Diane von Furstenberg and Vogue editor Anna Wintour -- are glad to see him back at work.
De la Renta spoke highly of Galliano and his work on his collection this season to WWD. “He’s the nicest guy,” he said. “We worked so well together because he was unbelievably respectful of my thoughts. I was deeply respectful of his ideas, and we had a really great time working together. It’s so wonderful when you have [a situation] where you’re challenging each other in your own ways.”
De la Renta did give Galliano one bit of advice: “I told him, if he wants to be in America … you cannot be like Greta Garbo. At one point, you have to face the music and explain your position.”