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Is It Galliano 'Just Being Galliano' or Something More Sinister?

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A few weeks ago I blogged in these pages about disgraced couturier John Galliano under the headline "Galliano deserves another chance".

Welcoming Galliano's three-week "internship" at Oscar de Ia Renta, I argued that the anti-Semitic outburst which led to his dismissal from Dior and his eponymous label, a fine from the French courts and the stripping of his Legion d'Honneur was probably a cry for help from someone under unbearable professional pressure and with chronic substance abuse issues. He deserved a second chance, I said boldly...

Well, don't I feel stupid after the very same Galliano was photographed in Manhattan earlier this week dressed in hassidic garb, complete with peyot, the sidecurls worn by ultra-Orthodox Jews.

John, what were you thinking? You are in New York City. If you wanted to offend a lot of Jews, you really could not have chosen a better place. Outside of Israel, NYC has the largest concentration of Jews anywhere on earth. Did you think you could slip out for a stroll dressed like a Bobover or a Lubavitcher without attracting attention, or was that the point? And if so, I ask again, what were you thinking?

Abe Foxman, head of America's powerful Anti-Defamation League, who has been meeting with Galliano regularly as part of the designer's bid to repent and "learn", has brushed aside the incident, saying said the eccentric get-up had "zero religious connotations" and was simply "John Galliano being John Galliano.

"Galliano is on a pilgrimage to learn and grow from his mistakes," noted Foxman. "He is trying very hard to atone."

I admire Abe Foxman's counter-intuitive approach, and I might even be tempted to agree, if it was just the fitted overcoat, the Hasidic-inspired hat and those trousers tucked into boots. These could
be forgiven - just about - as an eccentric fashion statement (after all, this is the man who has done pirates, Chief Sitting Bull and many other wild costumes). But by adding the peyot, the whole thing is instantly lifted into the territory of Nazi-style mockery.

At the end of my earlier blog, I wrote: "I hope this extraordinarily talented designer has healed and that this gentle re-immersion into the frenetic world of fashion at Oscar de la Renta proves the first step in a total rehabilitation."

I then added this caveat: "If I'm wrong, and there's a dark heart which genuinely harbours such odious racist, anti-Semitic thoughts, it won't take 14 more years for him to be found out. Especially not in the very Jewish environment of Manhattan, where he will be working for those three weeks..."

Abe Foxman thinks his behaviour in Manhattan is just Galliano being Galliano. For me, the jury's out on whether it was provocative, eccentric, attention-seeking, stupid or authentically anti-Semitic from someone who can't help himself...

Jan Shure is co-founder of shopping website, SoSensational.co.uk, and is a former fashion editor at the Jewish Chronicle