In February 2011, John Galliano, the lauded head of
Christian Dior, imploded with a drunken, anti-Semitic public
tirade. Exactly a year earlier, celebrated designer Alexander
McQueen took his own life three weeks before his women's
wear show. Both were casualties of the war between
art and commerce that has raged within fashion for
the last two decades.
In the mid-1990s, Galliano and McQueen arrived on the fashion
scene when the business was in an artistic and economic rut.
They shook the establishment out of its bourgeois,
minimalist stupor with daring, sexy designs and
theatrical fashion shows.
They had similar backgrounds: sensitive, shy gay men raised
in tough London neighborhoods, their love of fashion nurtured
by their doting mothers. By 1997, each had landed a job as
creative director for couture houses owned by French tycoon
Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH.
Galliano's and McQueen's work not only influenced fashion;
their distinct styles were reflected across the media
landscape. With their help, luxury fashion evolved from a
clutch of small, family-owned businesses into a $280
billion-a-year global corporate industry. Executives pushed
the designers to meet increasingly rapid deadlines. For
both Galliano and McQueen, the pace was unsustainable.
The same week that Galliano was fired, Forbes named
Arnault the fourth richest man in the world. Two months later,
in the wake of McQueen's death, Kate Middleton wore a McQueen
wedding gown, instantly making the house the world's most
famous fashion brand, and the Metropolitan Museum of
Art opened a wildly successful McQueen
retrospective, cosponsored by the corporate owners of
the McQueen brand. The corporations had won and the
artists had lost.
In her groundbreaking work, Gods and
Kings, acclaimed journalist Dana Thomas tells the
true story of McQueen and Galliano. In so doing,
she reveals the relentless world of coutureand the price
it demanded of the very ones who saved it.