Fashion Week showcasing the Fall/Winter 2011 collections took place last week in the city some may argue is the fashion capital of the world – Paris. Above all the highlights, the most shocking news was undoubtedly the ruckus going on at the House of Dior.

Dior head designer John Galliano was sacked just three days before Dior showed their collection amid allegations of hurling anti-Semitic insults at a couple in Paris. He was briefly arrested, and is now facing charges of making racist remarks in public.

The case against him became even more damning when a video of him slurring anti-Semitic comments like “I love Hitler” and telling his audience their forefathers should be gassed, began circulating online.

Galliano made a public apology and launched a counter-claim in a civil court for defamation, before disappearing and is rumoured to be in a rehab centre in Arizona, US.

Back in Paris, the Dior show proceeded in his absence. But a runway show featuring his label was cancelled, replaced with a lower-key presentation of the collection.

John Galliano

John Galliano

Some say that Galliano dismissal was too harsh, seeing he had brought only freshness to the Dior brand before the incident. He was drunk – and being in the spotlight – was easily taken advantage of.

Others, like designer Karl Lagerfeld, was less forgiving: “I’m furious, if you want to know. I’m furious that it could happen, because the question is no longer even whether he really said it. The image has gone around the world. It’s a horrible image for fashion, because they think that every designer and everything in fashion is like this.”

Perhaps Galliano should have taken a cue from past designers who had touched a raw nerve; the Holocaust is one sensitive area that fashion should not venture into.

In 1995, Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo arranged for two men to walk down the runway. Donning striped pyjamas with numbers and shaved heads, the presentation resembled that of Holocaust victims’ clothing. Despite Kawakubo’s protests at the connection and stating her deepest respect for Jewish people, there was critical outrage and threats of a protest. The collection was withdrawn.

Another absence at Paris Fashion Week gave rise to speculation of yet another designer’s breakdown. Last Thursday was Balmain’s show, and designer Christophe Decarnin failed to take his bow at the end of it. One magazine reported that he’s been admitted to a mental hospital, but Balmian owner Alain Hivelin stated that he was ‘merely resting’.

On the opposing end of the fashion spectrum, one designer gave an action-pumped show in Paris’s red light district Pigalle. The Andrea Crews Fall 2011 show had models in floor-length dresses with fake blood painted around their eyes.

Out of nowhere, a group of youngsters dressed in black plastic bags jump onto the catwalk and throw the models into potato sacks before running off. Before you even have time to wonder what it’s supposed to symbolise, screaming children clutching giant toys and props scream to electro beats.

Amsterdam-based fashion house Viktor & Rolf literally put fierce into fashion by sending models with fully-painted red faces marching to staccato beats down the runway. Strong eyes, stiff high collars, dramatic sharp pleats, and unapologetic drapes were shown only in red, black, white and silver. An online journalist even reviewed the collection as scary.

Theatrics aside, my favourite show last week has to be that of Haider Ackermann’s. Giant belts bring together sleek detailed draping; soft leather is clashed with knit; and ruched collars are upsized. The ensembles in its richness of indigo, plum, olive, bullet grey, and black are indeed, a marvel.

And, there is rumour that Haider Ackermann is one of the potential designers to be Galliano’s replacement.

Joyce Wong blogs about food, fashion and travel at and tweets at @joycethefairy.

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