Galliano Hit With Second Complaint Alleging Anti-Semitic Slurs

Unidentified woman reports altercation to Paris police.

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Dior remained silent on Monday’s developments, even as the clock ticks down to two of the bigger shows of Paris Fashion Week: Dior on Friday and John Galliano on Sunday. Dior controls the Galliano business.

It is understood management wishes to go ahead with both events to support the teams of people who mount runway shows — and to win the press coverage and wholesale orders they generate. But the delicate situation could make such large-scale media events a risky proposition.

Dior stressed the company has a policy of zero tolerance regarding racism and anti-Semitism.

Meanwhile, the blogosphere erupted anew Monday after the British tabloid The Sun posted an amateur video it says depicts Galliano in a row with his neighbors at a cafe. In it, the designer makes references to people being “gassed” and utters expletives censored by The Sun. The context, timing and authenticity of the filmed incident could not be verified.

Vogue Italia raced to Galliano’s defense, posting a screen grab and link to the explosive “Hitler” video on its Web site under the headline, “John Galliano: Was It a Set-Up?”

The posting noted that Galliano was “clearly provoked, and filmed, while obviously inebriated.” It added that, “We condemn the racist content of his statements (there’s even the hypothesis of Nazi sympathy) but we consider this video to be proof of extenuating circumstances.”

Under French law, the penalty for defamation can be one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros, or $61,884 at current exchange, or either one of those punishments. For insult, the sentence may be six months imprisonment and a fine of 22,500 euros, or $30,942, or one of those penalties.

While Galliano has yet to be charged, let alone proven guilty, a debate is already under way whether the 50-year-old designer will be able to recover from the crisis. Fashion has shown it can have a short memory, however.

Galliano’s friend Kate Moss was immediately cut loose by fashion advertisers such as Burberry and H&M after a photo in the London Daily Mirror in 2005 allegedly showed her doing lines of cocaine. But Moss’ mea culpa and rehab stint prompted a quick re-embrace by the fashion world.

Still, the stigma of even partial guilt around a possible hate crime could be hard to shake.

The Galliano company — which has been showing strong momentum recently — could be most affected by the fallout. Its brand image is closely tied to the iconoclastic talent, including newspaper prints featuring cartoon depictions of the designer, and its business is based mainly on license agreements with a range of Italian companies. The partners include Gibò Co. SpA for the women’s and men’s designer collections, Ittierre for the Galliano secondary line, Marcolin SpA for eyewear, Diesel for children’s wear and Morellato for watches.

As for Dior, the handicapping over a possible successor to Galliano should he fail to surmount the accusations has already begun among fashion circles. Givenchy’s rising star, Riccardo Tisci, is considered a front-runner, and he would follow the same path as Galliano, who spent a year as successor to the retiring founder, Hubert de Givenchy, before moving on to Dior.

Other in-house fashion stars at the disposal of Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior SA, would include Marc Jacobs, who is renegotiating his contract at Louis Vuitton, and Celine’s Phoebe Philo.

As reported, the list of potential candidates could range from established talents such as Hedi Slimane, Tom Ford, Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz and Balenciaga’s Nicolas Ghesquière to buzzy new names like Paris-based Haider Ackermann.

A dismissal of Galliano would rob fashion of one of its greatest showmen, perhaps marking the end of an era of runway spectacle, especially after the suicide last year of Lee Alexander McQueen, another British talent prized for theatricality.

Galliano’s famous inspiration trips to India, China, Japan, Turkey, Egypt, Middle Europe or within France brought rich rewards to his audience — and created some of the most arresting fashion show visuals in recent history.


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