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What’s Next For John Galliano?

Abe Foxman says we should forgive him, Parsons cancels his class

Stephanie Butnick
May 09, 2013
Picture taken on June 22, 2011 shows fashion designer John Galliano leaving in a car after he stood trial for anti-Semitic insults in a Paris court.(BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken on June 22, 2011 shows fashion designer John Galliano leaving in a car after he stood trial for anti-Semitic insults in a Paris court.(BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)

Yesterday we learned that Parsons The New School of Design had cancelled its planned three-day John Galliano master class (as The Cut pointed out, an auspicious day for a fashion news dump given the enduring Met Gala coverage). According to the Forward, the cancellation was a result of a Jewish student-led protest against the hiring, however temporary, of the disgraced former Dior designer, who was internationally maligned after a February 2011 drunken anti-Semitic tirade that was caught on film:

Jen Kaplan, a representative of the Jewish Students Union at Parsons The New School For Design, said an anti-Galliano petition that drew 2,000 signatures forced the school to back out of the planned class.

No one was more disappointed about the cancellation, save for perhaps Galliano himself, than Abe Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. “I think it’s very sad,” he told me, adding that if the university did in fact cave to public pressure, “they missed a teaching opportunity.” Foxman has stuck up for Galliano before, most recently crying foul after the New York Post splashed a photograph across its cover showing Galliano purportedly dressed as a Hasidic Jew during Fashion Week.

“We give politicians second chances all the time,” Foxman said, “why won’t we give that to a creative person?” Galliano, after making a public apology about the viral incident, approached the ADL and asked for a meeting. Foxman spoke at length with the designer on several occasions, giving him books to read and introducing him to rabbis and Holocaust scholars. By Foxman’s logic, Galliano made a mistake, and has more than repented, trying to not only make amends but educate himself and change (he stressed the addiction issue at the root of Galliano’s 2011 outburst, for which he has sought treatment).

“Forgiveness,” he added, “is at the heart of Judaism,”

While Foxman believes the Parsons students had every right to petition and voice their opinions, he offered a simpler solution: “Don’t take the class.” Most of them probably couldn’t get in, anyway; the master class was open only to seniors in the fashion program, “chosen based on pre-submissions of their work along with required faculty recommendations, a short essay or video, a visualization supporting their entry and a minimum 3.0 GPA.”

According to The New School, though, the master class wasn’t the issue. An email to students blamed the abrupt cancellation on an inability to get Galliano to agree to an additional forum, which would address the designer’s very public fall from grace in a setting open to students, faculty, and staff:

It was a condition of our agreeing to host Mr. Galliano that we also hold a larger forum, which would include a frank discussion of his career. Ultimately, an agreement could not be reached with Mr. Galliano regarding the details of that forum, and so the program will not move forward.

Abe Foxman may support Galliano’s return to the spotlight, championing him as a high-fashion story of redemption (even after last’s week tragic tartan fail). It may be some more time, though, before Galliano is ready to take the plunge. First, we need to decide what we want from him—fashion advice or a talk show apology circuit.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.