“Those who tell the stories also hold the power,” – Plato’s dictum is applicable in contemporary retelling of modern events too

It’s a point Vestoj editor in chief Anja Aronowsky Cronberg wanted to explore in creating the play “Little John.”

So at London College of Fashion earlier this week, where Aronowsky Cronberg  is a Research Fellow, we were treated to a puppet version of John Galliano’s televised interview on the “Charlie Rose”  US news show last June, where the disgraced Dior designer explained the behaviour that lead to instant dismissal.

“The play’s subtext,” she say’s, a big supporter of All Walks,  ”explores the power of the media and the fact that the story we are being told is seldom the actual story of importance.”Referring to the managed statements of John Galliano in which audiences, manoeuvred into a forgiving position by empathising with Galliano’s  alcohol and adrenaline addiction, lose sight of the bigger picture. Aronowsky Cronberg observes… ”We forgive ourselves for forgiving him.”

“It’s a common theme,” agrees Debra Bourne co-founder All Walks, “The artist as long as he (or indeed she) is doing ‘great works,’ will be absolved of pedestrian responsibilities.”

Hmmm. Are there other practitioners in fashion who trade on the same understanding? Perhaps, as an industry, we have much to review?

Significant  in Galliano’s retelling of events was the lack of information about the company culture and his own accountability leading up to his breakdown – we are only told that the pressure of 32 collections per year DID it.

A critique of a system that treats it’s cash-cow-creators with such carelessness, that medication, alcoholism and regular black-outs were considered as nothing more than collateral damage, in exchange  for a privileged life, is, in this instance, represented by the unspoken words – the significant silences between the edited statements. The actors veered in and out of character, checking their script and their responses with each other: Should there be more crying, more repentance?

And so with performances by Raphael Bouvet and Ruth Vega Fernandez to compliment puppet-maker Etienne Bideau-Rey’s Galliano creation, wearing an outfit based on the Napoleon-style garb the designer wore to take his bow after his acclaimed “Madame Butterfly” Dior couture show in 2007, we were left to ponder the morals and indeed power of a fashion machine that delivers such toxic allure, that  judgement is clouded even warped.

A thought provoking experience and the perfect launch for the fourth annual of Vestoj: Fashion and Power.


Caryn Franklin

Former fashion editor and co-editor of i-D Magazine for 6 years in the early eighties, Caryn Franklin has been a fashion commentator for 32 years. She presented the BBC’s Clothes Show for 12 years and BBC’s Style Challenge for 3 years as well as producing and presenting numerous documentaries for ITV on designers including Vivienne Westwood, Philip Treacy and Matthew Williamson.

Working in education throughout her career as external assessor and lecturer in colleges like Central St Martins, London College of fashion and Royal College of Art, she is also an ardent fashion activist and has co-chaired the award winning Fashion Targets Breast Cancer for 17 years and proposed the London College of Fashion Centre of Sustainability and is its ambassador.

Follow Caryn on Twitter: @Caryn_franklin