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PARIS — The show must go on.
That seems to be the mantra at Christian Dior SA, which is soldiering ahead with the Dior fashion show today despite John Galliano’s dramatic ouster over anti-Semitic outbursts.
This story first appeared in the March 4, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
It is expected to be a straightforward affair, with little of the usual celebrity hoopla. News organizations have been instructed that photographers will have no access to backstage or the front row. That hasn’t stopped what Dior’s public relations battalion describes as “overwhelming” demand for invitations. (For more on the Dior brand, see page 6.)
According to sources, the attendance of luxury titan Bernard Arnault — typically flanked by glamorous Dior ambassadors such as Charlize Theron and French government figures — is not assured, owing to the tug of other business obligations.
Meanwhile, the John Galliano fall collection is to be presented on Sunday in its appointed time slot, but in a different format and venue. Sources said plans for a runway spectacle in landmark Left Bank brasserie La Coupole have been changed in favor of a tableau vivant format in a hôtel particulier. The designer will not be present.
Dior, which controls the John Galliano company, has yet to disclose its intentions for the business, now that its namesake designer is to stand trial this spring in a French criminal court on a charge of public insult after three people filed complaints alleging Galliano hurled racist and anti-Semitic remarks at them.
If found guilty, he could face six months imprisonment and a fine of 22,500 euros, or $31,207 at current exchange, according to the Paris public prosecutor. Galliano has apologized “unreservedly” for his behavior in causing any offence, assured “anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society” and reiterated he denies the claims made against him and has commenced proceedings for defamation and threats made against him.
Dior initially suspended Galliano from his duties on Friday and then ousted him on Tuesday amidst the mounting allegations and an explosive video depicting the maverick designer saying in a slurred voice, “I love Hitler.” Dior condemned the statements made in the video and commenced termination procedures.
Galliano, a London-born wunderkind who was the creative architect of Dior’s rejuvenation, has been its couturier since 1996. Succession rumors continue to swirl in the hothouse atmosphere of Paris Fashion Week.
It is understood Dior is in no hurry — and is legally unable —to name a successor until it has completed its procedure to terminate Galliano’s employment.
Under French employment regulations, the procedure to terminate employees can go quickly for what is known as faute grave, a serious misdemeanor. If the reason for termination concerns a personal matter or incident off the company clock, it can take several weeks.
According to sources, Arnault’s various advisers are pitching a variety of candidates, among them Haider Ackermann, Hedi Slimane and Givenchy’s rising star, Riccardo Tisci.
Delphine Arnault, deputy managing director at Christian Dior and the daughter of the billionaire LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman, is said to be a champion of Tisci. In a splashy cover feature in Madame Figaro magazine in January, Tisci coaxed Arnault to be photographed among five women said to be under his spell. (The others were Liv Tyler, Isabelle Huppert, Vahina Giocante and Lou Doillon.)
“There won’t be any choice for quite a while,” said one source familiar with the French luxury group. “They’re receiving offers.”
It is understood overtures have been made recently to Ackermann as a possible candidate for Dior, or to succeed Tisci at Givenchy, should he be moved over to Dior.
Approached at the Ann Demeulemeester show Thursday, Anne Chapelle, chief executive officer and owner of Bvba 32, which controls the Haider Ackermann brand, declined to comment, saying the focus for now should remain on Ackermann’s own show, scheduled for Saturday. Asked whether the designer would contractually be free to work for another house, should he be offered a role, Chapelle replied: “Everybody is free.”
As principals at LVMH hunt for a successor to Galliano, some are hoping to make a profit from their final decision. PaddyPower.com, the British online betting site, has odds on Stefano Pilati (11-8) or Hedi Slimane (9-4) getting the top job. The odds are lower, however, for Tisci (3-1). Meanwhile, Nicolas Ghesquière, Kris Van Assche and Roland Mouret are all tipped at 4-1. Alber Elbaz trails them with odds of 6-1. The site specifies that all bets apply “To the next permanent, top Dior Creative Director after John Galliano.” The person must be confirmed as a permanent appointment by the ceo of Christian Dior.