February 28, 2011 / 3:54 PM / 6 years ago

Police grill Dior's Galliano on racism charges

<p>Fashion designer John Galliano (C) and his lawyer Stephane Zerbib (L) arrive for a hearing at a police station in Paris February 28, 2011.Gonzalo Fuentes</p>

PARIS (Reuters) - John Galliano's future at Christian Dior looked uncertain on Monday as police questioned the British fashion designer over accusations that he hurled racist abuse at people in a Paris bar.

One of the world's top designers and known for his dramatic shows and flamboyant style, Galliano was suspended by Dior on Friday hours after a couple complained that he shouted racist and anti-Semitic insults at them while out drinking in Paris's hip Marais district.

His lawyer said Galliano, who lives in Paris, denies making racist or anti-Semitic comments. But speculation about his future heightened after a new complaint was lodged about a similar incident in October.

Galliano ignored questions on Monday as he strode through a crowd of reporters outside a police station in central Paris, his face largely hidden by a wide-brimmed black hat as he emerged from a car. He was inside for more than five hours.

On the way out he briefly lost his hat as he was mobbed by a crowd of TV cameras, but still refused to comment.

Thursday's bar incident happened just eight days before Galliano was due to present Dior's new women's ready-to-wear collection at Paris Fashion Week.

Many fashion insiders fear Dior may have to part ways for good with Galliano, its creative director since 1996.

"I think the situation is not tenable for Dior," said Muriel Piaser, head of the bi-annual Parisian fashion trade show.

"Dior sells everywhere around the world. Fashion sells dreams but it also involves respecting certain ethical codes."

ZERO TOLERANCE AT DIOR

<p>Fashion designer John Galliano arrives for a hearing at a police station in Paris, February 28, 2011.Gonzalo Fuentes</p>

Dior has refused to comment on the timing of its fashion shows as well as on the new complaint lodged against Galliano by a woman on Saturday about an incident in October.

The woman accused the 50-year-old designer of insulting her in October at the same bar where police discovered him on Thursday evening hurling a torrent of abuse at a couple, who complained the tirade included racist and anti-Semitic remarks.

Galliano's lawyer Stephane Zerbib firmly denied the charges.

"He has never said such things whether on the 24th (of February) or in October," Zerbib told Reuters.

<p>Fashion designer John Galliano (C) and his lawyer Stephane Zerbib (R) arrive for a hearing at a police station in Paris February 28, 2011.Jacky Naegelen</p>

"When you are a victim of anti-Semitic or racist remarks, you do not wait four months (to lodge a complaint)," he added. "I question the opportunism of this new complaint."

French anti-racism group SOS Racisme said on Monday it would also pursue charges against the designer.

Dior, which on Friday stressed that it had a "zero tolerance" policy toward any racist or anti-Semitic behavior, said Galliano was suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

It was not clear whether Dior's show would proceed as scheduled on Friday. However, the press office of John Galliano, the designer's own label, said his Sunday show was still on.

Dior is one of the biggest fashion brands alongside Louis Vuitton at LVMH, the world's No. 1 luxury group controlled and headed by French billionaire Bernard Arnault.

Dior shares on the Paris bourse closed at 104.45 euros, up 40 euro cents on Friday's close.

Galliano, named British designer of the year four times, previously worked at Givenchy. He was succeeded there by the late Alexander McQueen who later created his own label, now part of the French group PPR.

Additional reporting by Lucien Libert, editing by Catherine Bremer and Paul Casciato

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