c.2015 New York Times News Service

c.2015 New York Times News Service

(On the Runway)

It was a big week for forgiveness in fashion: John Galliano made his reappearance on the runway under the aegis of Maison Margiela, and Harper’s Bazaar and Rolling Stone have unveiled their latest covers, the first featuring Miranda Kerr, the second Nicki Minaj, both shot by the photographer Terry Richardson.

As you may remember, early last year a groundswell of condemnation surrounded Richardson, as model after model came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. Though no charges were filed, glossy magazines began to distance themselves from the photographer, who is known for his brightly lit, cheerfully lewd aesthetic, and there was a sense that perhaps, as my fellow critic Robin Givhan wrote, “the industry is tiring of porn references.”

Guess not.

It took Galliano almost four years, much public atonement and private rehabilitation to work his way back into the mainstream, but Richardson has reappeared as a cover star after a mere eight months (during which time, it should be said, he continued to shoot for pages inside magazines, instead of covers). And he did it without, as far as I can tell, having to do any obvious self-improvement work or education.

Granted, the two situations are not exactly the same: Galliano, whose downfall was caused by accusations of anti-Semitism, was found guilty by a French court, while Richardson has not been charged. He has vociferously denied wrongdoing, and as commentators have noted, is “innocent until proven guilty.”

Perhaps as a result, there hasn’t been much of an outcry on Twitter, normally the source of outraged screeds, about Richardson’s return. Though some have expressed disappointment with Rolling Stone (and given the recent scandal about its mishandling of an article on campus rape, Richardson does seem a bizarre choice), Harper’s Bazaar has thus far had almost no public fallout from the choice. The magazine did not respond last week to a request for comment.

Talent is talent and all that, and Richardson unquestionably has a singular point of view. But fashion is an industry whose whole identity is based on catering to women and making them feel better about themselves — helping them hide what they want to hide and armoring them for the everyday, be it the boardroom or a school run. Or at least it should be.

Celebrating someone who has been accused of doing the exact opposite by giving him the most plum assignment risks undermining the very point of the discipline.

It matters.