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Oscar de la Renta’s decision to invite John Galliano for a three-week residency at his studio prior to the fall runway show came with all the ingredients of a real fashion moment: the disgraced designer hoping to reenter the industry; a revered icon of the fashion world and New York society trying to help hasten that process; Anna Wintour’s muscle, and a vote of confidence from the Anti-Defamation League that had many speculating on just how many strings had to be pulled to get this powerful group to weigh in so positively on Galliano’s alleged self-improvement since his anti-Semitic rant in a Paris café.
The show was the most talked-about of the week—would Galliano be backstage tweaking the last few outfits? Would both designers take a runway bow? Is Galliano going to succeed de la Renta right after this show? None of the above happened. There was a rumor that Galliano sat backstage, but he was completely out of sight (although Suzy Menkes was overheard at the show telling someone she ran into him in the restroom).
The beautiful collection was romantic and elegant, bringing the kind of sculpted tailoring, cinched silhouettes and darker makeup Galliano typically favors to de la Renta’s own aesthetic.
The few days following, however, were less pretty. The chatter took a bizarre turn when the New York Post ran a photo of Galliano in an ensemble it likened to traditional Hasidic clothes, suggesting that Galliano was being insensitive to the Jewish community (never mind that he has worn big hats, long coats and knee breeches and sported long curls for years).
Even the ADL weighed in. “Anyone familiar with the dress of traditional Orthodox Jews should not mistake what Galliano is wearing in the photograph as ‘Hasidic garb,’” said its national director, Abraham H. Foxman. “Hasidim do not wear fedora hats, pinstripe pants, blue jackets or an ascot tie.”
De la Renta, who had been traveling during press time, would only respond to e-mailed questions, and kept away from those touching on the more controversial nature of Galliano’s stint: “He is a unique talent. We both love what we do and having someone of his caliber to collaborate with is a real pleasure,” he wrote.
Asked whether Galliano would be back for spring 2014, de la Renta remained cryptic: “We all loved having John here in the studio and would like to find a way of having him here more often.”