John Galliano, who was fired from Christian Dior on Tuesday after a video of him making drunken anti-Semitic remarks surfaced online, reportedly will check into rehab immediately. He has been persuaded by his friends Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss to seek help—and is probably bound for The Meadows, a rehab center in Wickenberg, Arizona where Elton John and Donatella Versace have been treated, Suzy Menkes reported Wednesday. To fight his case, the designer also has reportedly retained the lawyer who represented Moss when she was accused of cocaine use in 2005. On Wednesday the Paris public prosecutor’s office announced that Galliano will go on trial over his insults, which are illegal in France.
On Wednesday morning, Galliano spoke out for the first time, releasing an official apology: “Anti-semitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologise for my behaviour in causing any offence." He also outlined the foundation for a defamation case: “A number of independent witnesses have given evidence and have told the police that I was subjected to verbal harassment and an unprovoked assault when an individual tried to hit me with a chair having taken violent exception to my look and my clothing. For these reasons I have commenced proceedings for defamation and the threats made against me.”
But as the news settles, many in the fashion community are trying to make sense of what this means for Galliano’s career—and for the future of Dior. Karl Lagerfeld is the most recent to speak out, telling WWD on Wednesday: “"I'm furious that it could happen… It's a horrible image for fashion, because they think that every designer and everything in fashion is like this. This is what makes me crazy in that story." A more immediate question is what will happen in the coming days. Dior is still expected to show at Paris Fashion Week on Friday at the Musee Rodin—and the design team is reportedly in a panic over how to finish the collection without their leader. And the presentation of Galliano’s eponymous label is still scheduled to take place at an undisclosed location on Sunday. While it is unclear whether Galliano will appear on Sunday, spokespeople maintained that the shows will go on—and continued to confirm seating assignments on Tuesday.
But a larger question looms: Who will replace Galliano? Widely credited with reviving Dior, the designer leaves some big shoes to fill. There is speculation that his successor will be selected from within LVMH, Dior’s luxury parent company. Names circulated include Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci, Celine designer Phoebe Philo, and even Louis Vuitton creative director Marc Jacobs, who checked into rehab himself in 2007. Outside LVMH, it is speculated that Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz is also in the running. A bookie, meanwhile, has already placed her bets on Galliano’s replacement, putting Yves Saint Laurent’s Stefano Pilati at 11/8, former YSL designer Hedi Slimane at 9/4, and Kris Van Assche, Dior Homme’s creative director, at 4/1. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess.
Galliano’s alleged anti-Semitic remarks at a bar in Paris on Thursday night were met with a mixture of shock, disgust, and sympathy. Then came the release Monday of a video of a separate drunken incident, at the same bar, by the website of the British tabloid The Sun. The clip shows Galliano hurling slurs at a neighboring table’s occupants, who laugh and egg him on. “I love Hitler,” he says. “People like you would be dead…Your mothers, your forefathers…would all be fucking gassed.” Natalie Portman, the face of Christian Dior’s perfume Miss Cherie, was quick to condemn the video. “I am deeply shocked and disgusted,” she said. “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.”
“It’s very common in France,” said Joan Juliet Buck. “But it’s the last thing you’d expect from a wild, English bohemian from Gibraltar. He represented the opposite of the values that are expressed in anti-Semitism.”
Galliano constantly pushed the envelope at Dior. After taking the helm there in 1996, he transformed the company from an outdated label into a sought-after global brand. Soon, he introduced silhouettes that conformed to the body, spaghetti straps, and dresses that looked like lingerie. (The first dress Galliano designed for Dior was a sexy lingerie dress for Princess Diana that she wore to Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1996.) He famously told The New Yorker’s Michael Specter in 2003: “My goal is really very simple: When a man looks at a woman wearing one of my dresses, I would like him basically to be saying to himself, ‘I have to fuck her.’… I just think every woman deserves to be desired. Is that really asking too much?”
Gallery: Galliano's Runway Goodbyes
While many in the fashion industry were quick to condemn Galliano’s actions, others expressed shock that the designer could have uttered such remarks. “When I, an American Jew, edited Vogue in Paris, I heard anti-Semitic remarks,” Joan Juliet Buck, former editor of French Vogue, told The Daily Beast. “It’s very common in France. But it’s the last thing you’d expect from a wild, English bohemian from Gibraltar. He represented the opposite of the values that are expressed in anti-Semitism.” But The Guardian’s Linda Grant writes that his remarks aren’t necessarily surprising for a designer who trades on shock value. “If you are breaker of taboos, then anti-Semitism is only another taboo, no different from any other,” she writes. “It has become the last frontier for those demanding freedom of speech, for whom everything, even the Holocaust, is fair game… Fashion’s obsession with transgression, its demand that Galliano shock us even more each season, has played its own part in the drunken bar rant.” Likewise, designer Patricia Field told WWD: “John lives in theater… It’s farce. But people in fashion don’t recognize the farce in it. All of a sudden they don’t know him. But it’s OK when it’s Mel Brooks’ The Producers singing ‘Springtime for Hitler.’”
Many feel that the incident is revealing of a larger problem. As an anonymous Dior executive told The New York Times’ Cathy Horyn, the company has received “numerous complaints” from clients who have been offended by Galliano’s behavior in the past.
Some are expressing outrage that Galliano was sandbagged by the two women who captured his booze-fueled tirade with a cellphone camera. “He’s a creative genius, and his work, in this case, must be separated from his personal p.o.v.,” tweeted Fashion Television host Jeanne Beker. “I’m sure the collection will be brilliant, as always. But freaky without John there.”
Franca Sozzani, editor of Italian Vogue, also expressed sympathy. “I am against and I condemn any kind of racism or any behavior that shows disrespect toward any religion,” she said. “But I would like to say that I’m just as disgusted by these people who saw what state John was in and took advantage of the situation by trading on his name and notoriety. It’s obvious that this was a bit inauthentic in the sense that if you are truly fighting with someone, you don’t have time to pick up a mobile phone, turn on the video GIGGLING and mockingly film what he is saying… I am frightened by how quick these young people were to try to gain notoriety or money while destroying the image of a genius.”
Designer Giorgio Armani, meanwhile, told The Daily Telegraph’s Hilary Alexander that he felt sorry for Galliano. “It’s obviously a difficult time for him,” Armani said in Italian through a translator. “I’m also very sorry that they videotaped him without him knowing.”
Isabel Wilkinson is a fashion and arts correspondent for The Daily Beast.