PARIS — Luxury supernova Christian Dior SA did the unthinkable Friday, suspending creative director John Galliano — whose wildly inventive designs have defined the French label for the past 14 years — after he was accused of hurling an anti-Semitic insult at a Paris bar.
Galliano's lawyer, Stephane Zerbib, vehemently denied any wrongdoing and said the suspension was out of proportion. The move comes only a week before Dior's fall-winter 2011-2012 ready-to-wear show on the catwalks of Paris.
In a terse statement Friday, Dior said the suspension would remain in effect pending an investigation into an altercation that allegedly erupted Thursday night at La Perle, a tiny, trendy bar-restaurant in Paris' Marais district. The exact circumstances of the incident weren't clear, but Paris prosecutors said the 50-year-old British designer was questioned by police and released after a couple accused him of directing an anti-Semitic insult at them. A police official said the designer also exchanged slaps with the couple.
The prosecutors and the police, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, say Galliano's blood-alcohol level was excessive.
Fallout was swift. Just hours after news of Galliano's brief detention hit French websites, Dior chief executive officer 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."
Under French law, making anti-Semitic remarks can be punishable by up to six months in prison.