Prêt-à-porter fashion week begins Tuesday in Paris, but the fashion chatter in the French capital Friday morning is all about John Galliano, Christian Dior's top designer. Police intervened at 9 p.m. Thursday at La Perle, a bar in the heart of Paris' swanky Marais district. Galliano, 50, who has lived in Paris for 20 years, designing for Givenchy before Dior, lives near La Perle and is a regular at the see-and-be-seen faux-casual hotspot. The famously eccentric British designer allegedly levied a verbal assault against a couple seated next to him on the bar's sidewalk terrace. Europe 1 Radio dishes that the couturier reportedly told a woman, “Dirty Jewish face, you should be dead,” calling her a “whore” and “ugly” (“a thousand times,” she is quoted as saying); meanwhile, her companion is rumored to have been told, “Fucking Asian bastard, I will kill you,” by the enraged Gibraltar-born fashion icon. It is unclear whether Galliano knew the couple beforehand.
A Paris police source tells The Daily Beast that Galliano was taken to a local police station for questioning for “light violence” and “insults of an anti-Semitic character.” The source says a breathalyzer test measured 1.01mg of alcohol per liter of breath Galliano exhaled. Police say the victims have pressed two charges against the designer. Justice authorities tell us they are waiting for the file while police investigate and that they allowed Galliano's release when someone could escort him home.
Through his lawyer and Agence France Presse, meanwhile, Galliano is categorically denying he made any anti-Semitic remarks and is threatening to sue his accusers. Dior, not likely looking for this sort of press four days before Paris Fashion Week, initially no-commented to The Daily Beast, “We confirm nothing, we deny nothing.” But the fashion house's Chief Executive Sidney Toledano has now suspended Galliano, citing a zero-tolerance policy toward anti-Semitic remarks or behavior in a statement, pending the results of the police inquiry. There is only one week to go before the Christian Dior show scheduled for Friday, March 4, at Paris' Rodin Museum. John Galliano, meanwhile, is due to present his eponymous Fall/Winter 2011-2012 prêt-à-porter collection two days later. Nothing says investigators will buy the pre-show stress excuse for Galliano's outburst, or that his targets were no more than fashion victims.
Tracy McNicoll is Newsweek's Paris Correspondent. She has been covering Western Europe for the magazine since 2002.