Russell Brand on Hugo Boss, Nazis, fashion and the tedium of glitz

Russell Brand explains to Guardian readers the circumstances under which he was ejected from the GQ fashion awards after giving a speech about sponsor Hugo Boss's connection to the Nazis. It's a pretty much perfect example of gonzo writing: over the top, acerbic, witty, and funny -- but with a serious point that's made all the better for the loony style.

I could see the room dividing as I spoke. I could hear the laughter of some and louder still silence of others. I realised that for some people this was regarded as an event with import. The magazine, the sponsors and some of those in attendance saw it as a kind of ceremony that warranted respect. In effect, it is a corporate ritual, an alliance between a media organisation, GQ, and a commercial entity, Hugo Boss. What dawned on me as the night went on is that even in apparently frivolous conditions the establishment asserts control, and won't tolerate having that assertion challenged, even flippantly, by that most beautifully adept tool: comedy.

The jokes about Hugo Boss were not intended to herald a campaign to destroy them. They're not Monsanto or Halliburton, the contemporary corporate allies of modern-day fascism; they are, I thought, an irrelevant menswear supplier with a double-dodgy history. The evening, though, provided an interesting opportunity to see how power structures preserve their agenda, even in a chintzy microcosm.

Subsequent to my jokes, the evening took a peculiar turn. Like the illusion of sophistication had been inadvertently disrupted by the exposure. It had the vibe of a wedding dinner where the best man's speech had revealed the groom's infidelity. With Hitler.

Foreign secretary William Hague gave an award to former Telegraph editor Charles Moore, for writing a hagiography of Margaret Thatcher, who used his acceptance speech to build a precarious connection between my comments about the sponsors, my foolish answerphone scandal at the BBC and the Sachs family's flight, 70 years earlier, from Nazi-occupied Europe. It was a confusing tapestry that Moore spun but he seemed to be saying that a) the calls were as bad as the Holocaust and b) the Sachs family may not've sought refuge in Britain had they known what awaited them. Even for a man whose former job was editing the Telegraph this is an extraordinary way to manipulate information.

Russell Brand and the GQ awards: 'It's amazing how absurd it seems'

Notable Replies

  1. Russell Brand was good but Stephen Colbert's truth to power rant at the Washington Press Corps dinner is the standard by which all others (as few and far between as they are) should be measured. The piece Brand wrote for the Guardian after his "acceptance" speech is worth reading.

  2. Yes indeed, read it this morning already (it's linked in Cory's post). Brilliant in style, content, and political perspective. He's fast becoming a national treasure of England, far as I'm concerned. His other Guardian columns are priceless too, especially the one on the passing of Old Lady Thatcher.

  3. I am worried that he may have hurt Hugo Bosses feelings. That isn't nice.

  4. Thanks, and i agree about the standard Colbert set with a speech that I've watched more than once. It's like what people say appearances by Mark Twain were like, and certainly right up there with scathing Twainian (and Swiftian) satire, the kind that spits lightning bolts of truth to power.

  5. If they hadn't ejected him - thus leading him to write this rather marvellous column - I'd have never known Hugo Boss (the man) was a serious fan of Hitler and slave labour. Now I do. I also learned by Googling "Hugo's Adventures with the Nazis" that Hugo Boss (the company) tried to cut the wages of Ohio factory workers by 36% (from $13 an hour to $8.30) in 2010. It appears Danny Glover was involved in a campaign with a local union to prevent this occurring.

    Well done Russell Brand!

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