PARIS — A Paris labor court on Tuesday ordered John Galliano to pay a symbolic euro to each of his former employers — Christian Dior and his namesake house, John Galliano — rejecting his claims of wrongful dismissal.
This story first appeared in the November 5, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Galliano had asked for damages ranging between 2.4 million euros and about 13 million euros, or $3 million to $16.2 million at current exchange, depending on how the court appraised his dismissal, according to his lawyer, Chantal Giraud-van Gaver of Coblence & Associés.
She made no further comment following the surprise ruling, and the likelihood of an appeal could not immediately be learned.
Galliano had told a hearing that his bosses at Dior and the Galliano fashion house were fully aware of his addictions to alcohol and medications.
Dressed in a conservative navy suit, paired with a shirt and tie, the British designer made only brief remarks in a case pitting him against his former employers following his dismissal for making racist and anti-Semitic remarks at a Paris cafe in 2011. Galliano blames the addictions for his behavior.
“The two companies were fully aware of my state,” Galliano said in French. “It’s true that I drank tea [at work] but there was also all the medication. I took Valium so I could get through fittings.”
Reading from a brief prepared text, he added: “I can’t let the 17 years I spent and enjoyed at Dior be blackened like this. During these years as creative director of this house, I did not realize that its success, multiplying its sales by four, came at a destructive and exorbitant cost: my physical and mental health. Always more work, always more obligations, always more pressure, a dangerous and pathological spiral, without control.”
During two hours of arguments and counter-arguments, Galliano stood impassively in front of a wide desk in the chamber at the Conseil de prud’hommes, or Labor Relations Court, located in a working-class neighborhood in the northeast of Paris. He exited the courtroom ahead of the verdict.
Before the hearing, the designer, accompanied by his partner Alexis Roche, appeared relaxed, discussing with his lawyers his new role as creative director of Maison Martin Margiela. He made no further statement upon leaving the courtroom.
Giraud-van Gaver, tabling 147 pieces of supporting evidence, had argued that Galliano’s dismissal should be considered null and void because it was based on a preexisting medical condition.
“From 2010 onwards, the situation was untenable because of my client’s triple addiction,” she said. “The real question is: What should Dior have done?”
The court heard that faced with Galliano’s repeated work absences, and reports of his uncontrolled behavior in public, Dior chief executive officer Sidney Toledano wrote him a note in December 2010 stating: “Your behavior is intolerable and unmanageable.”
Jean Néret of Jeantet Associés, the lawyer for Christian Dior and John Galliano, dismissed the allegations that the designer’s bosses knew of his addictions as fraudulent. “Mr. John Galliano carefully hid his addiction from others,” he said.
The lawyer quoted a transcript from Galliano’s interview with Charlie Rose in July 2013 in which the designer described himself as a “fully functioning addict.” He also cited a statement from his governess, who said Galliano asked her to buy and hide bottles of alcohol for him.
Néret said Bernard Arnault, chairman and ceo of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and Toledano intervened several times to urge Galliano to seek help. On one occasion, Galliano retorted by ripping off his shirt and crying: “Is this the body of an addict?”
While Giraud-van Gaver linked the designer’s alcohol and drug abuse to work pressures, Néret disputed those allegations as “distorted and despicable.”
He noted that other designers such as Karl Lagerfeld experienced no such difficulties, submitting as evidence French director Loïc Prigent’s documentary series “The Day Before,” which chronicles the final 36 hours before a runway show.
Néret said Dior had paid Galliano a final settlement of 800,000 euros, or $1.1 million. All dollar rates are calculated at average exchange rates for the period to which they refer.
The case has been winding its way through the courts since February 2013, but the labor tribunal was in recess for a little more than one hour before delivering its ruling, and did not provide any justification for the decision. Néret also declined to comment.
The verdict brings to three the number of cases Galliano has lost in French courts since his firing.
In 2011, a criminal court found him guilty of uttering racist and anti-Semitic insults and sentenced him to suspended fines totaling 6,000 euros, or $8,400. In addition, it ordered him to pay three plaintiffs and five antidiscrimination groups 1 euro, or $1.40, each in symbolic damages and a combined 16,500 euros, or $23,200, in costs.
Last year, a commercial court rejected a separate claim for damages by Galliano’s company, Cheyenne Freedom, following the termination of its consultancy agreements with Christian Dior Couture SA in March 2011.
The court ordered Cheyenne Freedom to pay Dior 1.17 million euros, or $1.5 million, as compensation for hurting the company’s image and reputation. Néret noted that Cheyenne Freedom has since filed for liquidation, making it unlikely the sum will be paid.