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Former Dior Fashion Director Goes On Trial

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Former Dior Fashion Director Goes On Trial

Art & Design

Former Dior Fashion Director Goes On Trial

Former Dior Fashion Director Goes On Trial

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Fashion designer John Galliano goes on trial Wednesday on charges of anti-Semitism, a case that forced him out as Dior's fashion director and could result in prison time. The designer has since undergone substance abuse treatment and claims his outbursts were the result of inebriation.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Fallen fashion designer John Galliano appeared today at his trial in Paris. He's accused of making anti-Semitic slurs in a Paris cafe.

If judges decide that his alleged tirades qualify as hate speech, which is illegal in France, Galliano could face a $30,000 fine and six months in prison.

Eleanor Beardsley was at the courthouse today, and she sent us this report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Hundreds of journalists were waiting outside the Paris courtroom as Galliano's trial was set to begin. The shamed designer, who has been out of the public eye since last February, came in through a side entrance, giving most of the cameras the slip.

The few lenses that did catch him showed a somberly dressed wisp of a man, hardly the flamboyant character who once ruled a fashion house. Since Galliano's fall last March from the pinnacle of the fashion world as Christian Dior's top designer, he has been in addiction treatment centers in the U.S. and Switzerland.

Galliano's lawyer says his client was under the influence of prescription drugs and alcohol during the incident and that his tirades were not a reflection of his true character. But Yves Beddouk, an attorney for one of the two plaintiffs, says Galliano shouldn't be let off that easily.

Mr. YVES BEDDOUK (Attorney): (Through translation) First he attacked my client as a woman, by criticizing her physically. And then he topped it off with anti-Semitic and racist remarks to her and her partner. It went very, very far and his abuse lasted a long time.

BEARDSLEY: The charges last March that the British designer had spewed venomous remarks at cafe patrons in two separate incidents shocked the fashion world. Dior let him go when a cell phone video of yet a third case of barroom abuse began circulating on the Internet.

That video is being used as evidence in the trial. It shows a drunk-looking Galliano calling two women ugly. Then he goes on to say that he loves Hitler and that their mothers and forefathers would have been or should have been gassed.

Genevieve Bulot was also outside the Galliano courtroom. She's not a reporter but the granddaughter of someone who was deported to a Nazi death camp.

Ms. GENEVIEVE BULOT: (Through translation) I don't care if he was drunk or if he's a creative artist. There is no excuse for treating Hitler and the Holocaust in this banal fashion. We see it everywhere now, and it simply can't be tolerated.

BEARDSLEY: Inside the courtroom, Galliano offered an apology but said he remembered nothing of the incidents. He called himself a recovering alcoholic and prescription drug addict. It is unclear when a verdict will be issued following Galliano's one-day trial, but Jessica Michault, online style editor for the International Herald Tribune, says the word on the street is that Galliano may be slapped with a financial penalty, but he won't do jail time.

Ms. JESSICA MICHAULT (Online Style Editor, International Herald Tribune): He's lost his name, which is owned by LMVH, and he's no longer the creative director at Dior, the designer at Dior, which was basically his identity for the past 10 years.

BEARDSLEY: And that, says Michault, is Galliano's worst punishment.

For NPR news, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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