(photo credit: Associated Press)
PARIS — Famed fashion house Christian Dior SA suspended creative director John Galliano on Friday after he was detained and accused of an anti-Semitic insult — a bombshell development just days before the catwalks in Paris heat up for fashion week.
RELATED:Fashion Week touches down in London town
The designer vigorously denied wrongdoing and said the suspension was way out of proportion to the cafe dispute, according to his lawyer.
Dior said in a statement it suspended Galliano pending an investigation into an incident in a Paris restaurant on Thursday night.
Paris prosecutors said a couple in the restaurant accused Galliano of making anti-Semitic insults. A police official said Galliano also exchanged slaps with the couple.
The British designer was questioned and released after the incident at
the trendy La Perle bar-restaurant in the heart of the Marais district,
near Galliano's Paris apartment. The prosecutors and police, who spoke
on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, say
Galliano's blood alcohol level was high.
"The House of Dior confirms, with the greatest firmness, its policy of
zero tolerance for any anti-Semitic or racist comments," Sidney
Toledano, CEO of Dior Couture, said in the statement.
All this is a blow at a crucial moment for one of fashion's most storied
companies. Dior would not comment on whether it would present its
collection as planned at the fall-winter 2011-2012 ready-to-wear shows
that start in Paris next week.
Critics suggested that Dior had been looking for a way to part with the
extraordinary yet temperamental Galliano for some time, and the
restaurant spat provided a reason for a break-up.
Galliano's flamboyant personality and over-the-top creations have become
synonymous with Dior over his 14-year tenure. He revamped and
modernized the image of the house and sent out intricate, imaginative
collections with themes ranging from ancient Egypt to Masai tribesmen to
Known for a razor-sharp tongue and a chameleon style, he charms fashion
insiders at the end of each runway show with his puffed-out rooster
strut, always in an outrageous costume.
Galliano "modernized Dior and made it more youthful than any of his
predecessors. At times his clothes have been confounding.... and at
times have been so extraordinarily sexy that it made you wonder how the
brand continued to dress France's first ladies and high society," said
Dana Thomas, author of "Deluxe: how Luxury lost its luster," an expose
of the luxury industry.
French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is a close friend of the designer, and nearly always makes public appearances in Dior.
"These days I see Dior more on young Russian girls in Saint Tropez than
on chic women in Paris, but perhaps that is the goal," Thomas told The
Asked whether she thought Galliano would brave the current controversy and be back at Dior, she said, "No."
Jessica Michault, fashion critic for the International Herald Tribune, noted that "the brand is stronger than one designer."
"The house is a very strong image, very iconic, and was even before John
got there. He created a very romantic image for the house, something
that makes people dream. But he's not the whole history of Dior," she
told the AP.
Galliano was "totally surprised" by the suspension, which he considers
"totally disproportionate," lawyer Stephane Zerbib told the AP. "He is
"He never made an anti-Semitic remark in more than 10 years at Dior,"
the lawyer said. "He was insulted, and he responded to the insults."
Critics noted that Galliano has long had a wild reputation.
"Given Mr. Galliano's history of party antics, this is not a surprise," Thomas said.