“I love Hitler. People like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would be fucking gassed and fucking dead.” Fashion designer John Galliano spewed these despicable, beyond hateful and offensive words, in February 2011 at his favorite watering hole, Café La Perle in Paris’ chic Marais district. Galliano—seemingly drunk or high, or both —was caught on video by Philippe Virgitti, a receptionist, and his girlfriend Geraldine Bloch, a museum curator. The couple also said Galliano called them: “dirty whore,” “ugly,” “fucking Asian bastard” and “dirty Jew face.” The shocking footage of Galliano’s anti-Semitic rant was released for the world to watch in horror. Then 47-year-old Fatiha Oummedour, a French citizen, came forward claiming that Galliano hurled similar insults at her for no apparent reason. Galliano was arrested and charged with “public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity,” which is against French law. He was fined 6,000 Euros and found guilty of making racist and anti-Semitic remarks.
The flamboyant designer of Christian Dior and his own namesake label was quickly canned by Dior on March 1, 2011. Sidney Toledano, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Christian Dior Couture, said: “We unequivocally condemn the statements made by John Galliano which are in total contradiction to the long-standing core values of Christian Dior.” Natalie Portman, the face of Dior at the time and once seen posing with Galliano, was even more ardent in her dismissal of the fallen fashion designer: “I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments. In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way.” Just a few weeks later, Portman won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Black Swan. And as the ultimate fashion slap in the face wore Rodarte, not Dior, to pick up her statue. Once the darling of the fashion world, Galliano became an outcast—the Mel Gibson of the runway. And as the internet was overloaded with anti-Galliano comments, he issued a press release with the obligatory, carefully crafted apology for his actions and then vanished—evidently to rehab.
But not everyone was satisfied with Galliano’s plea for forgiveness or his light sentence. Moshe Kantor, the President of the European Jewish Congress said the “slap on the wrist” sent the wrong message to those who use hate speech. “It is outrageous,” Kantor denounced. “This sentence demonstrates that there appears to be a culture of impunity in the entertainment world.”
Yet despite his vanishing act, one year on, there is still a man named John Galliano who is one of the living masters of his craft. One year on, there is still a fashion label that bears his name and is putting forth collections. And one year on, Dior has yet to find a suitable replacement for him at the helm of the house.
There has been tremendous observation of the movements of all the actors in this sordid play. Suzy Menkes, the Head Fashion Editor for the International Herald Tribune, said in a recent New York Times article, in trying to fill the position at Dior, it has been rumored, “Seven designers already approached have either been turned down or backed away.” And there is still not a replacement in sight. The biggest talk was that Marc Jacobs would fill the position, but that turned out to be just a rumor. At press time, Belgian designer Raf Simons, who won raves for his collections at Jil Sander, was said to be a shoe-in as Galliano’s replacement at the house of Dior.
As for Mr. Galliano, he is keeping himself very much undetectable; so much so, he seems to have disappeared altogether. It is against the law in France to incite racial hatred and it has been said that Galliano has been staying in the South of France since the criminal case against him had been settled. Another source in Paris alleges he has occasionally spotted Galliano out and about drinking. As for his next moves, a source close to the designer’s partner, Alexis Roche, has said they are seriously considering moving to Los Angeles, a city known for its eternal forgiveness—yet also a town with a large and powerful Jewish population. Just look at Mel Gibson’s career, or rather lack of a career, as an example of what happens to celebrities who make public pronouncements that insult a whole lot of people.
Recently, Mr. Roche, also known as “Lexy,” created a Twitter account and was tweeting with other fashion industry professionals (such as makeup artist Pat McGrath and stylist Edward Enninful) while out at various fancy events in Paris. This sudden communication suggests the Galliano camp may be opening up a bit and that movement from the designer may be on the horizon. And just last month, Galliano surfaced publicly in London where he attended the 50th birthday party of his old pal DJ Jeremy Healy. A “spy” told the New York Post that Galliano seemed “sober” but that his appearance “caused quite a flutter in the room.”