Breakdowns are definitely more prevalent in the world of arts and entertainment because of the incredibly high stakes involved. And when it comes to fashion, they happen even faster, thanks to the insurmountable pressure placed on the glam-but-often-beleaguered players. Here are eight not-so-chic fashion-world meltdowns that did not leave me in stitches.
CHRISTOPHE DECARNIN (1964-)
From 2006, Decarnin was the highly touted creative director at Balmain. But tongues started wagging when he didnt take a bow after the March 2011 show. In fact, it turned out he wasnt there at all! Reports started spreading that he was in a mental hospital after a breakdown and hadnt even worked on the line. The official word denied that and said the man was simply more tired than denim skirts. In any case, Decarnin resigned from his position very shortly afterwards. Quel dommage!
ISABELLA BLOW (1958-2007)
The eccentrically fashionable British editor was a muse/mentor to Alexander McQueen, as well as to models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant and hat designer Philip Treacy. But gossip claimed that when McQueen had a major career change, it was a Blow to “Issie,” who supposedly became depressed and felt cast aside. Word had it that she also had serious financial problems and, what’s more, couldnt seem to procreate. Meanwhile, Blow’s various other diagnoses included the fact that she was bipolar and had also developed cancer. After a series of suicide attempts, sadly enough, she succeeded in 2007 by drinking weedkiller. Theres no one like her.
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN (1969-2010)
The brilliant, openly gay British couturier who had been so close with the restlessly unhappy Ms. Blow ruled at Givenchy before launching his own label. His mother died in 2010, and nine days later, McQueen hung himself, leaving a terse note: Look after my dogs, sorry, I love you, Lee. (He was born Lee Alexander McQueen.) Friends said McQueen had been doing drugs and was depressed, though we still dont know the full depth of what ailed him. A 2011 Metropolitan Museum of Art show of his work called “Savage Beauty” was a smash testament to his subversive genius.
KATE MOSS (1974-)
The British model represented heroin chic in the glossies, and there was some apparent spillover into real life, too. In fact, in 2005, various drug allegations surfaced, which led to big contracts being dropped, as Moss’ offbeat antics drew headlines. But she survived and kept going and has become a certified icon for her longevity and influence. Update: In June, Kate was escorted off an aircraft for disruptive behavior. Whoopsy! Not chic!
GIA MARIE CARANGI (1960-1986)
The Philadelphia-born beauty rocketed to fame and became addicted to coke and heroin. (Needle marks even showed in some of her not-retouched-enough photos.) On top of all that, she developed HIV, back when it was way less treatable. The career plummeted, and though she attempted rehab, it didnt stick. Tragically, this troubled creature of such great beauty died at 26.
NAOMI CAMPBELL (1970-)
The ’90s supermodel had perhaps the longest breakdown period of all: from 1998 to 2008. During this glamorous-but-tempestuous time, Campbell was accused of no fewer than 10 assaults. For one thing, Naomi pleaded guilty to bopping her assistant with a cellphone. Obviously a big fan of misusing technology, she later pleaded guilty to doing something similar involving a BlackBerry personal organizer, this time aimed at her ex-housekeeper. And in 2008, she pleaded guilty to assaulting cops at London Heathrow Airport when they escorted her off a plane where shed made a furious fuss over misplaced luggage. (At least this time, apparently, there was no phone involved. I guess she needed it to call her lawyer.) Never has so much beauty melded with so much anger management and community service. But Naomis scandal headlines seem to be in the past, and Im thrilled because I sort of actually like the woman.
JOHN GALLIANO (1960-)
The Italian/British designer ruled the roost for years at Givenchy and then Christian Dior before starting his own line. But it all came crumbling in 2011, when Galliano went into an anti-Semitic rant in a Parisian café, clearly under the influence of something that was doing him no favors. His woozy speech aimed at total strangers started with, I love Hitler. It didnt get any more enchanting after that. Then a video surfaced of him making a similar tirade a few months earlier. Strangely, he denied it, but the truth won out. As a result, Galliano had to be put on trial, since saying such things is illegal in France (though asymmetrical skirts are somehow OK). He was declared guilty and had to pay a fine. His comeback (he works for Maison Margiela) has been slow but noticeable.
CALVIN KLEIN (1942-)
In the middle of a New York Knicks basketball game at Madison Square Garden in 2003, Klein strangely leapt out of his seat, waltzed onto the court and blithely started talking to player Latrell Sprewell. Sprewell later said he wasnt nervous, but he was starting to wonder if security was going to come rescue him from this person. Sure enough, Calvin had to be escorted back to his seat by official-looking people, but once he was there, he didnt stay quiet. In fact, he yelled Sprewell! as fans may well have started perversely enjoying this unwanted halftime show.
Sprewell never did reveal what Klein had said to him maybe Are you wearing CK underwear? but at least he wasnt thrown enough to lose the game; the Knicks beat the Toronto Raptors, 100-90. A fascinating breakdown postscript happened a couple years ago when Calvin seemed to go wacky again by taking up with younger ex-porn actor Nick Gruber and introducing him to high society. But it didnt take security to drag the designer away this time. Realizing the relationship had gone sour, he wisely blew the whistle and retired from it.
Michael Musto is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.