McQueen and Galliano Lecture

Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano

Winner of the Ellis Haller Award for Outstanding Achievement in Journalism and noted author, Dana Thomas gave a very compelling and engaging lecture on her new best-selling book, Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. As she presented slides of the incredibly beautiful creations of McQueen and Galliano, Dana explained how she was “stunned and devastated” by the news of the suicide of McQueen at the age of 40. Then only a year later, Galliano, the designer of Christian Dior, after many drunken episodes, was fired for his anti-semitic rants in a bar fight. His frequent black-outs were the result of his potentially deadly combination of alcohol, anti-anxiety medicine, and sleeping pills. Galliano later said that he would have died had he not been fired and gone to rehab.

Dana chronicled how these two extraordinary, innovative talents deteriorated as they succumbed to unrelenting corporate pressure. Galliano and McQueen were both very creative, hands-on artists who dyed, shaped, cut, and sewed their own designs. In the beginning, their businesses were small with 2 collections a year. However, when these small operations became part of big global conglomerates, Galliano and McQueen were responsible for 32 collections a year. The French tycoon Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH appointed Galliano as creative director of Dior, and McQueen at Givenchy. Later, McQueen was director of his own label under the Gucci Group. Dana asserted that McQueen and Galliano “became the victims of war between art and commerce.”

The objective of the fashion shows was to “make some noise,” so that the much more profitable and affordable lines of accessories like scarves, bags, shoes, eyeglasses, and perfume could be sold. Forced to delegate, and “under the thumb” of marketing executives, they were told which colors sold better and what the focus groups said. This “Faustian pact” was a “soul-crushing compromise,” Dana explained. The non-stop pressure and loss of control over their creations led to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Dana cited the examples of designers such as Marc Jacobs and Donatella Versace who also went to rehab.

Dana then read us a quote by Jean Paul Gaultier: “Commercial constraints, as well as the frenetic pace of collections, don’t leave any freedom, nor the necessary time to find fresh ideas and to innovate …It comes to a point where you don’t even have time to think.” Dana’s book is prescient in that just recently, the designer Raf Simons left Dior announcing that he needed time for his own label and other interests and passions in his life.

Dana signed copies of her book, and generously gave 20% of the proceeds to Robinson Gardens. After the lecture, the guests had a delicious lunch catered by The Kitchen for Exploring Food in the Rose Garden. The exquisite scene was like a fall paradise. The tables were beautifully decorated by Marian Power with pumpkin centerpieces filled with orange sequined fruit, succulents, and leaves, surrounded by iridescent fabric. Maple leaves of golden yellow, red, and orange dotted the table. The roses and cherub statues further enhanced this enchanting scene.

To add to the profitability of the day at this sold-out event, Marian sold the beautiful centerpieces and donated the money to the Friends of Robinson Gardens. Thank you to our co-chairs Marian Power and Janice Jerde for giving us such an informative, thought-provoking program and lovely afternoon!

Post by Linda Meadows
Friends of Robinson Gardens Member


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