John Galliano will have a hard time erasing the image of his drunken anti-Semitic slurs from the public’s mind even if he is cleared by a French court today of criminal charges stemming from other related incidents.
Christian Dior SA fired Galliano, its head designer, after a video of him saying “I love Hitler” emerged following a complaint to police claiming he verbally attacked a couple at a Paris cafe. While the video wasn’t included in the case against him, it was shown at trial and seen around the world, making a comeback difficult, luxury analyst Luca Solca said.
“The visibility of his behavior was so high that it is probably going to be an issue in most places,” said Solca, global head of European research at Credit Agricole Cheuvreux in Paris. Even if he’s acquitted, it’s “a stain that is going to be somewhat difficult to remove.”
The Gibraltar-born designer, 50, joined Dior in 1995. He was credited for revitalizing Dior’s image, bringing in younger customers and making the brand LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA’s second most-profitable within 10 years. Galliano blamed his heavy workload for pushing him to abuse alcohol and sleeping pills. He entered addiction treatment in February and said at his trial he couldn’t remember what happened at the cafe.
Under French sentencing rules on hate speech Galliano faces a maximum 22,500-euro ($31,600) fine and six months in prison if found guilty. Prosecutor Anne de Fontette sought a fine.
Dubbed “l’enfant terrible of fashion” by Women’s Wear Daily, Galliano could return to the industry eventually, Solca said. Sidney Toledano, Dior’s chief executive officer, praised him as “brilliant” at a show held in Paris just three days after Galliano was fired.
The designer won’t come to court for the judgment today, and his lawyer Aurelien Hamelle declined to comment before the verdict.
In his June testimony, Galliano said he was sorry for “the sadness this affair has caused” and repeatedly said he couldn’t remember what had happened at the cafe. Three patrons accused him of verbally attacking them. Witnesses gave contradictory testimony on whether he used racial and anti-Semitic terms.
The “particularly odious character of the behavior and statements by John Galliano” in the video prompted the company to act rather than await the outcome of the police probe, Dior said in a March 1 statement.
Olivier Bialobos, a spokesman for the fashion house, which has yet to name a replacement for Galliano, didn’t return calls and e-mails for comment ahead of the court decision.
“The public sometimes likes humiliating high-standing figures and then forgiving them and getting them back into the limelight,” Solca said, citing the case of golfer Tiger Woods, whose marital infidelities cost him sponsorships and preceded a rankings slump. “Time heals a lot.”