By and  on November 18, 2005

PARIS — Dressed in a fur hat and an olive green trenchcoat — indoors, mind you — John Galliano made a rare public appearance Tuesday night to watch as Christian Dior chief executive officer Sidney Toledano was decorated as a chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

And there was no shortage of star power, with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Marisa Berenson, Carla Fendi, Edouard de Rothschild and Albert Frere also among the hundreds gathered in Dior's plush gray salons here.

"It's a very happy moment," said a beaming Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, repeatedly anointing Toledano as an "exceptional manager" before Renaud Dutreil, France's minister of industry, pinned the red medallion on his lapel.

Arnault underscored the continuity of the house's success by reminding the crowd that Dior himself had shown his first collection in the very same room in 1947. "This is the French talent," he said. "It is what we do best in this country."

Arnault praised Toledano's "passion" for products and his ability to harness the creative juices of designers like Galliano. "This is very complex to manage," he said. "It is important to salute this success."

Berenson called Toledano full of "admirable qualities. Not only is he brilliant at what he does, but he has this amazing charm. Basically, he has everything that is attractive."

Born in Morocco and trained as an engineer, Toledano launched his fashion career at footwear firm Kickers and continued his expertise with leather goods at Lancel before joining Dior in 1994. He was named president in 1998.

The event also drew scores of Toledano's executive peers, including Chanel's Francoise Montenay, Louis Vuitton's Yves Carcelle, Jimmy Choo's Robert Bensoussan, Fendi's Michael Burke and Chloé's Ralph Toledano, who is not related to Sidney but who has been one of his closest friends since grade school.

Meanwhile, Galliano said he just returned from a research trip around France, stunned by the landscapes around Les Baux that inspired Vincent Van Gogh. Still, he found time to do a little shopping, snapping up Madonna's new CD in Avignon, even before it hit shelves in Paris.

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