Christian Dior to Fire Galliano Over Anti-Semitic Rant

British Fashion Designer John Galliano
British fashion designer John Galliano salutes the audience at the end of the presentation of his Fall/Winter 2007-2008 ready-to-wear collection in Paris. Photographer: Judith White/Bloomberg

Christian Dior SA said it will fire its head fashion designer John Galliano after a video emerged supporting claims that he uttered anti-semitic comments at people in a Paris cafe.

A video of Galliano saying “I love Hitler” was posted yesterday on the website of The Sun, a U.K. tabloid, showing the designer at the same cafe where he was arrested Feb. 24 following an accusation that he verbally attacked a couple with anti-semitic and racist statements.

“I condemn with the greatest firmness the statements by John Galliano,” Maison Dior Couture Chief Executive Officer Sidney Toledano said in an e-mailed statement.

Gibraltar-born Galliano, 50, was to present his collection for Dior Couture on March 4 during Paris Fashion Week at the Rodin museum. Galliano joined Dior in 1996 from Givenchy, a subsidiary of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA. Dior has a stake in LVMH, the world’s largest luxury-goods manufacturer, and LVMH Chief Executive Officer Bernard Arnault’s Groupe Arnault SAS holds 69 percent of Christian Dior.

Dior “had to take a position, an ethical stand,” said Concetta Lanciaux, head of Strategy Luxury Advisors in Paris. The show shouldn’t be affected, she said. “None of these designers work in isolation. This is not some small company that does everything on the last night.”

Stephane Zerbib, a lawyer for Galliano, declined to comment on the firing.

Defamation Complaint

The designer has filed a defamation complaint against the woman who claimed he’d insulted her on Feb. 24, Zerbib said. Galliano and the woman met with police yesterday to discuss their versions of what happened, he said.

“He responded, but he was never violent and never uttered anti-semitic statements,” Zerbib said. Galliano insisted that he was attacked first, the lawyer said Feb. 27.

Dior had suspended Galliano the day after last week’s arrest pending the outcome of the police investigation.

The “particularly odious character of the behavior and statements by John Galliano” in the video led the company to fire the designer rather than await the outcome of the police probe, Dior said in its statement.

While normally French labor law protects employees from being fired for acts in their private lives, this situation is different because the designer is the public face of the company, labor lawyers said.

Incarnation of Dior

“Galliano’s case is very particular in that he incarnates Dior,” said Yasmine Tarasewicz, a lawyer with Proskauer Rose in Paris.

Should Galliano prevail in the criminal investigation, that won’t necessarily help him before France’s labor courts because of his duty to uphold the brand’s image, said Francoise Even, a lawyer with Shearman & Sterling in Paris.

“They’re two autonomous procedures,” Even said. “A public figure who represents a brand’s image cannot carry on in public like this. It was damaging the company’s image; he couldn’t stay.”

Oscar-winner Natalie Portman, who is a face for Parfums Christian Dior, wore another designer’s products at the awards show Feb. 27, according to Women’s Wear Daily. She also issued a statement disassociating herself from Galliano, according to WWD.

“Today things are not like they were 10 years ago,” Lanciaux said. “Even creative geniuses have to follow some rules.”

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