British designer John Galliano railed against Brexit and populism threatening “the moral fibre of society” after a pointed Paris fashion show where he paid tribute to World War II heroes for saving democracy.
The legendary creator — who is usually careful to avoid politics — warned that “we are witnessing the very breakdown of the moral fibre of society, the trivialisation of democracy and the European Union.
But “isn’t this what they fought for — for peace?” he asked, referring to nurses, female spies and Resistance fighters he celebrated in his Maison Margiela show.
Galliano said he decided to speak out because he was shocked to discover “how little some people know” about the fight against fascism.
He said his show was “about remembrance and about liberation. If you have a voice it is because these people fought so you can vote. So use it. Make yourself heard. Wake up!” he declared.
The show set social media alight Thursday, but not for its politics.
– Walk goes viral –
Model Leon Dame played the show’s cartoon Nazi, with videos of him pulling pouty faces zigzag walking going viral.
The devilishly handsome German is fast becoming something of a catwalk phenomenon in a world where male models rarely warrant a namecheck.
But Galliano set a more sombre mood on a podcast released after the show Wednesday.
To the strains of the hymn “Abide With Me” — an anthem often used at remembrance events in the UK — he said he had taken a string of heroic women from both World War I and II as his inspiration, “fabulous women who gave up everything and who are sources of hope” now.
He paid tribute to British nurse Edith Cavell, executed during in 1915, with nurses veils and clothes echoing their uniform, as well as trench and parachute coats as nods to female spies dropped into Occupied Europe.
The designer — one of the most influential of the last 30 years — has turned his life and career around since he was fired by Dior in 2012 after drunkenly insulting patrons of a Paris bar with a volley of anti-Semitic slurs.
– ‘I was floored’ –
Galliano, 58, took the reins at Margiela in 2014 after an extended and very public penance which included standing up in the Central Synagogue in London to apologise and declare, “I am an alcoholic. I am an addict.”
The designer said the idea for the show came together when he was “floored” while watching a BBC documentary about the wartime love story between US GI K.T. Robbins and French woman Jeannine Ganaye, who were reunited after 75 years in June.
Galliano said he was struck by the “quite modern one-piece” Jeannine had made for herself back then, to which he paid a homage in his collection.
But he was blown away by one moment in the documentary when having waited for him for five years after the war, she asked the 97-year-old Robbins, “Why didn’t you come back earlier?”
“I was on the floor. I was on the floor,” gasped Galliano.