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Posted at 12:01 AM ET, 03/ 2/2011

Fashion don'ts: John Galliano fired for anti-semitic rant, Vogue gets slammed for puffy profile of Syria's first lady

By The Reliable Source

Designer John Galliano has been fired from Dior. (Reuters/Benoit Tessier)

Designer John Galliano delivers a drunken, anti-Semitic rant. Vogue magazine runs a puffy profile of Syria's first lady Asma al-Assad. The common denominator? Blistering condemnation and outrage -- evidence of fashion's increasingly global reach to a wider, more politically sensitive audience.

Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, the face of Dior perfume, said Monday she was "deeply shocked and disgusted" and condemned the designer, "As an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way." Foreign Policy called the Vogue article "spectacularly ill-timed, appearing just as pro-democracy uprisings were roiling the illiberal autocracies of the Arab world."

Even a brilliant designer and the world's most influential fashion bible don't get a pass.

After 16 years at the helm, Galliano was quickly fired by Dior Tuesday just hours after a damning video emerged where the designer professed his love for Hitler. (Life imitates art: Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's character Bruno crashed New York's Fashion Week and proposed a solution to the unfashionable: "Why don't you just put them on trains, send them to a camp and say, 'Bye-bye?' " he said. "I would love to," answered the unsuspecting fashionista.)

But Italian Vogue editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani lamented Galliano's loss: "While I condemn John's words. . .I am frightened by how quick these young people [the restaurant patrons who took the cell-phone video] were to try to gain notoriety or money while destroying the image of a genius."

Asma Assad, wife of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, 2008. (AP/Aijaz Rahi)

The Dior scandal came a week after Vogue's profile of Syria's first lady, who is described as glamorous, young, and very chic -- "a rose in the desert." The piece barely touches on her husband, who many foreign policy experts consider one of the most brutal dictators in the world. The article focuses more on the charming aspects of the country: "Christian Louboutin comes to buy the damask silk brocade they've been making here since the Middle Ages for his shoes and bags."

Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, told us it was "irresponsible to do a puff piece. If you're going to do a piece like this, you have to tell the whole truth: That her husband rules with an iron fist, that there's zero tolerance for dissent."

Johanna Cox, a Washington policy wonk and a former fashion writer for Elle, said she was surprised by the Vogue profile ("It felt like an endorsement") and said it re-enforces the stereotype of fashion as something frivolous, "which is unfair." She compared Galliano's fall to Mel Gibson -- a beloved star until his darker side was exposed to the public. Galliano "is one of the greatest of all time. . .We don't want to believe it because we respect the work so much." But, she added, fashion cannot function as an insular industry.

When asked for comment, Vogue released a statement to the Washington Post. "When the issue went to press, protests were just beginning in Tunisia, and the subsequent changes that swept the region happened too late to incorporate into our piece." The magazine said it has covered prominent women like Queen Rania and Benazir Bhutto. "Our interest in examining their lives is not an endorsement of the regimes they are linked to."

By The Reliable Source  | March 2, 2011; 12:01 AM ET
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I think these Middle East experts are mistaking the current Syrian president Assad for his father. The two are completely different. The former was a general who became a dictator, the latter was duly elected, and continues to bring his country towards a more open and democratic future. Granted they block certain internet sites just as Vietnam does, but everyone there knows how to go around these so-called blocks. I am not from Syria but I have visited the country as a tourist, and I envy their large middle class. They have happy, friendly people. If you look at the roster of Arab countries in turmoil, Syria is not one of them. It is a peaceful and safe country, which is probably why it was named by Lonely Planet as the top destination for this year.

Posted by: ELMA1 | March 2, 2011 4:22 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if these “many foreign policy experts” mentioned by the Reliable Source, have taken a look at the brutal acts committed by multiple Israeli officials?
If the post wants to be a credible voice then it should be objective and accurate. And not be selective when it comes to discussing human rights.
Much of Assad's popularity inside Syria and the Arab world derives from his foreign policy, particularly his tough stance toward the United States and Israel, I’m sure many foreign policy experts would concur that this stance is the real reason behind the media’s attack on Vogue’s story.

Posted by: Maya_F | March 2, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

For those who think the designer's actions are not okay, don't wait for the fashion house — or any employer — to take action. Speak with your dollars: stop buying that fashion.

Even if the rabble can afford couture, remember: fashion trickles down, and heat rises.

And if a designer's personal views aren't enough to make you act, congrats: you're a member of the majority.

Posted by: cfow1 | March 2, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I still think it's crazy he could actually go to jail for his comments, however objectionable they were he made them in private, and he was clearly wasted... I have discussed this in more detail on my blog, please take a look.

Posted by: Jonesey83 | March 2, 2011 10:05 PM | Report abuse

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