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Designer Galliano apologizes, says anti-Semitism has 'no place'

By Monita Rajpal, CNN
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John Galliano faces trial over remarks
  • Prosecutors say John Galliano will face trial for allegedly making anti-Semitic, racist remarks
  • Galliano apologized for his actions but maintained he was not anti-Semitic
  • There is much speculation as to who will replace Galliano as Dior's head designer

Paris (CNN) -- Fashion designer John Galliano could face up to six months in jail if convicted of making anti-Semitic remarks.

French prosecutors announced on Wednesday that Galliano, who has dressed Hollywood A-listers from Nicole Kidman to Sharon Stone, will face trial for allegedly making anti-Semitic and racist remarks against patrons at a Paris bar last week.

The British designer, who is reportedly in a rehab facility, apologized for his actions but maintained he was not anti-Semitic.

In a statement he said "anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologise for my behavior in causing any offence...I only have myself to blame. I am seeking help and all I can hope for is time to address the personal failure which led to these circumstances."

Galliano did go on to defend himself from accusations of aggression.

In the statement he said, "I was subjected to verbal harassment and unprovoked assault when an individual tried to hit me with a chair having taken violent exception to my look and my clothing."

His lawyers say a counter-complaint against defamation and aggression have already begun in Paris.

In the fashion capital, the reaction was mixed. Nancy Ham, an American living in Paris, said "it's a shame because he is a great designer but I wouldn't want anything to happen to the house of Dior. I really think you have a right and a wrong and I really believe in doing the right thing."

Dior fired the man who helped catapult the 64-year-old brand into the next century. But according to an analyst, the luxury industry markets itself on credibility, quality and heritage. For the brands, reputation is key.

Jean Noel Kapferer, a fashion brand management consultant,said Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, the company that owns Dior, had no choice but to sack Galliano. "(He) really knows the value of the empire he has created. He could not but kill the man immediately ... He has remarkably, I think, made a decision. But it hurts."

Arnault, who hired Galliano in 1996 when he was a relative unknown, once described the flamboyant designer as "a creative talent very close to that of Christian Dior. He has the same extraordinary mixture of romanticism, feminism, and modernity that symbolised Monsieur Dior."

Galliano was fired on Tuesday after video emerged reportedly taken in October allegedly showing the designer saying he loved Hitler and telling two women "people like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be f****ing gassed."

Toledano said, "I very firmly condemn what was said by John Galliano which totally contradicts the values which have always been defended by Christian Dior."

That wasn't enough though for stars like Oscar winner Natalie Portman who is contracted to be the face of Miss Dior Cherie perfume. In a statement she said she was "shocked and disgusted" and said "in light of this video and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano anymore".

Many are now questioning whether it is the pressures of the industry that may have contributed to the designer's very public downfall. Today with the internet and social media, fashion isn't so much about exclusivity. It is more about being accessible to the masses.

Brands like Dior which are publicly owned, are having to not only satisfy a rapidly growing customer base but also their shareholders. And in order for them to do so there is a pressure to innovate, create, and deliver faster. (Designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, and most recently Alexander McQueen all had very public breakdowns. McQueen committed suicide one year ago.)

There is much speculation as to who will replace Galliano as Dior's head designer. LVMH could promote from within with names like Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, or Louis Vuitton's Marc Jacobs. Hedi Slimane, who designed Dior's men's line until he left in 2007, is also a name that's being considered.

As for Galliano, Hilary Alexander of the Daily Telegraph perhaps best described the reaction to his professional demise -- that there is "deep sadness that such a glittering career should end in such a sordid and tragic fashion."

Spokespeople for both Dior and Galliano say their catwalk shows on Friday and Sunday respectively will go ahead as scheduled.