John Galliano’s career is officially in a free fall. It wasn’t long ago that the British designer was sitting high as creative director of 64-year old label Christian Dior, a jewel in the LVMH luxury empire (LVMH also finances his namesake label). Now he’s been fired from his post for making anti-Semitic comments caught on videotape, and is set to go on trial in France for his remarks, which are illegal in the country.
Crisis Experts on What John Galliano Should Do to Rebuild His Career
By Leah Bourne
Thursday, Mar 3, 2011 Updated at 11:18 AM EDT
This isn’t the first time someone in the fashion industry has made a public gaff. Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein have both done stints in rehab. Dolce & Gabbana was accused of tax evasion in 2009. And the Gucci family has suffered through enough scandal to fill books (tax fraud, murder, spying). Of course the Galliano situation different—and more in line with the fall-out from Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic comments in 2006 or Isaiah Washington's homophobic comments on the set of "Grey’s Anatomy" the same year.
Galliano issued both an apology and denial through his lawyer after days of silence yesterday saying, “I completely deny the claims made against me and have fully co-operated with the police investigation.” He continued, “I must take responsibility for the circumstances in which I found myself and for allowing myself to be seen to be behaving in the worst possible light.”
Will the apology be enough? Crisis management experts suspect not. Davia Temin who runs her own crisis management and reputation firm Temin and Company and regularly works with CEOs says, "This is not something that can be undone immediately. His apology needs to be authentic and sincere.” Temin suggests that it would be smart “to issue something in the same medium that he was caught, videotape. But it can’t be overly produced and slick. It can’t look fake or disingenuous.”
"There is some mysterious equation that works with apologies and reparations in terms of what the public wants a figure who has publicly sinned to do, and its in proportion to the sin committed,” according to Temin. She suggests Galliano could go on apology tour of sorts, meeting with descendants of Holocaust victims. She also says, “You can use your sweet spot, your area of expertise to dedicate yourself to the people that you’ve hurt.” For example, staging a fashion charity show with the proceeds going to groups that help Jewish immigrants relocate.
Someone in the fashion industry that came out singing following public scandal is model Kate Moss, who faced public scrutiny when she was caught on camera snorting lines of cocaine in 2005. During an interview on Radio Four’s Desert Island Discs her agent Miss Doukas said following the scandal: “I basically just spent a lot of time on the phone trying to reassure her big clients that you can’t believe everything you read and, unfortunately, all press actually is good press in this world we live in.”
Moss is now making more money than ever. Interestingly Galliano has since hired the law firm that Kate Moss used when she was ensconced in scandal, Harbottle & Lewis, and -- if rumors are to be believed -- she was one of the supporters who urged Galliano to enter rehab.
The public might be slower to forgive Galliano than Moss, but the situation isn’t without hope. Veteran Michael Levine, an entertainment PR pro who has worked with everyone from Nike to Michael Jackson, says he believes in the "four principles of celebrity crisis" including speed, humility, contrition and personal responsibility. "If you go with those four things, you generally do pretty well.”
And while the corporate world might not welcome Galliano back anytime soon -- Temin calls him a "reputational liability" -- that doesn't mean should he take the proper steps that there isn't hope for him to rebuild his eponymous line. Let's not forget that Galliano is largely responsible for turning Dior into a $4.3 billion euro a year business and his creative talents are undeniable.