Dior Fires John Galliano After Racism Complaints

Posted: March 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

PARIS — The French fashion house Christian Dior said Tuesday that it had started procedures to dismiss its chief designer, John Galliano, following accusations that Mr. Galliano made anti-Semitic outbursts at a Paris bar.

In a brief statement, Sidney Toledano, Dior Couture’s chief executive, said he condemned “in the strongest terms” the words and actions of Mr. Galliano, “which are in total contradiction with the essential values that have always been defended by the Christian Dior house.”

Dior said it had “immediately suspended relations” with Mr. Galliano and that it had “initiated dismissal procedures.” It cited the “particularly odious comments” contained in a video published Monday.

The video, posted on the Web site of the British tabloid The Sun, appears to show Mr. Galliano taunting other patrons at the bar, La Perle, declaring in a slurred voice that “I love Hitler” and that “people like you would be dead,” and “your mothers, your forefathers” would all be “gassed.” It was unclear when the video was recorded.

Late Monday, the actress Natalie Portman, who recently signed an endorsement deal with Dior for its Miss Dior Chérie perfume, strongly condemned Mr. Galliano. In a statement, she said: “I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today. In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.”

Mr. Galliano was initially questioned by the police last Thursday after a separate incident at the bar, in the Marais district of Paris. He was accused by two other clients of making an anti-Semitic slur.

Mr. Galliano was suspended Friday by Dior. The fashion house, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, cited its “unequivocal zero-tolerance policy regarding anti-Semitism and racism,” after the initial incident was reported.

A police spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday, except to say that witnesses, including Mr. Galliano, had been questioned again Monday and then released. She referred all questions to the Paris prosecutor, who did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

According to French media reports, the police questioned the owner of La Perle, which Mr. Galliano frequents, the bar’s security staff and other clients.

Mr. Galliano’s lawyer, Stéphane Zerbib, was not available for comment Tuesday. He has previously contested the accusations of anti-Semitism against his client.

The Dior statement did not mention the effect that the resignation would have on its upcoming fashion show. The fashion house is scheduled to present its fall-winter 2011-2012 ready-to-wear show on Friday as part of Paris fashion week.

Called fashion’s “bad boy” for his flamboyant and provocative style, Mr. Galliano helped to energize Dior after he joined it in 1996 as creative director, increasing sales and making it a jewel of the LVMH luxury empire run by the French billionaire Bernard Arnault.

French law makes it a crime to incite racial hatred; the statute has been used in the past to punish anti-Semitic remarks.

The French advocacy group SOS Racisme said Monday that it would support legal proceedings if the accusations were confirmed. “Mr. Galliano has added to the ignominy of his words with the cowardice of a denial,” it said.

Mr. Galliano’s lawyer, Stéphane Zerbib, declined to comment Monday about the video. But he raised questions about a second complaint that surfaced Saturday, when another woman went to the police and accused Mr. Galliano of hurling anti-Semitic insults at her in October at the same restaurant.

“When you are a victim of an act of anti-Semitism, you don’t wait four months” to come forward, Mr. Zerbib told Reuters.

The clash last week involved Mr. Galliano and two other customers, Geraldine Bloch, 35, and Philippe Virgitti, 41. The video posted Monday appeared to involve a third clash. It is not clear from the video what prompted Mr. Galliano to erupt in English, although a female voice is heard countering the insults by saying, “Do you have a problem?”

Mr. Zerbib has denied that Mr. Galliano made any anti-Semitic comments in the incident last week, submitting four testimonials of support from employees and witnesses at the bar as part of defamation complaints filed against Ms. Bloch and Mr. Virgitti.

The neighborhood in which the restaurant lies is a historical Jewish center and home to one of the city’s largest gay communities. La Perle has evolved over the years from a quiet neighborhood cafe to a late-night hot spot, overflowing with stylish patrons.

 

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