Dior Suspends Galliano for Alleged Anti-Semitism

The house of Dior suspended Galliano as its creative director Friday after he was accused of hurling an anti-Semitic insult during an alcohol-fueled spat at a Paris bar.

The designer vigorously denied wrongdoing and said the move was “totally disproportionate.” The suspension comes just a week before Dior’s fall-winter 2011-2012 ready-to-wear show on the catwalks of Paris.

In a terse statement, Christian Dior SA said the suspension would remain in effect pending an investigation into the altercation Thursday night at La Perle, a trendy eatery in Paris’ Marais district.

Paris prosecutors said the British designer was questioned by police and released after a couple accused him of hurling an anti-Semitic slur at them. A police official said the designer also exchanged slaps with the couple.

The prosecutors and police, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, say Galliano’s blood alcohol levels were excessive.

Fallout was swift.

Just hours after news of Galliano’s brief detention hit French websites, Dior CEO Sidney Toledano announced the suspension, saying: “The House of Dior confirms, with the greatest firmness, its policy of zero tolerance for any anti-Semitic or racist comments.”

Galliano’s lawyer, Stephane Zerbib, said the Gibraltar-born designer was “totally surprised” by the suspension.

“He never made an anti-Semitic remark in more than 10 years at Dior,” Zerbib told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “He was insulted, and he responded to the insults.”

Under French law, making anti-Semitic remarks can be punishable by up to six months in prison. Public figures in France have been convicted for anti-Semitic remarks in the past, but are usually given only suspended sentences.

Galliano, 50, was born in Gibraltar and grew up in London, where he graduated from St. Martins School of Art in 1984.

He moved his design studio to Paris in the early 1990s. He joined Givenchy in 1995 and came to Dior in late 1996. His first design for the house was worn by Princess Diana.

Under his tenure, Dior has attracted many A-list fans, from Kate Moss, whose wedding dress he designed, to actresses Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron and Marion Cotillard. French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy — a former supermodel and friend of Galliano — is rarely seen in anything but Dior for official functions.

Galliano oversees the design of both Dior’s ready-to-wear and its made-to-measure haute couture collections.

In fashion weeks past, the audience inevitably roared with approval as Galliano took to the catwalk for his hallmark post-show strut, his chest puffed out like a proud rooster and sporting a different outlandish costume each season. (AP)

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