Police grill Dior's Galliano on racism accusations

John Galliano's future at Christian Dior looked uncertain today as police interviewed the fashion designer over accusations that he hurled racial abuse at people in a bar last week and in October.

Galliano, one of the world's most high profile designers known for his dramatic shows and flamboyant style, was suspended by Christian Dior hours after a couple complained that he had shouted racist and anti-Semitic abuse at them in a bar in the trendy Marais district of Paris on Thursday night.

The designer's lawyer said Galliano denies making racist or anti-Semitic comments. A second complaint from a woman about a separate incident in October was lodged on Saturday.

Speculation has been mounting in fashion circles that Dior may have to part ways with Galliano, who has been its creative director since 1996.

"I think the situation is not tenable for Dior," said Muriel Piaser, head of Paris's bi-annual fashion trade show. "Dior sells everywhere around the world. Fashion sells dreams but it also involves respecting certain ethical codes."

Dior, which on Friday stressed it had a "zero tolerance" policy towards any racist or anti-Semitic behaviour, said Galliano was suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

It was not clear today whether Dior's fashion show would proceed as scheduled on Friday. However, the press office of John Galliano, the designer's own label, said his Sunday show was still on.

Dior refused to comment on the timing of the fashion shows as well as on the second, new complaint lodged against Galliano by a woman on Saturday.

The woman has accused the 50-year-old designer of insulting her in October at the same La Perle bar where a police source said officers discovered Galliano on Thursday evening doling out a torrent of abuse at a couple, who later complained that the designer included racist and anti-Semitic remarks in his tirade.

"When you are a victim of anti-Semitic or racist remarks, you do not wait four months (to lodge a complaint)," Galliano's lawyer Stephane Zerbib told Reuters. "I question the opportunism of this new complaint."

Zerbib firmly denied Galliano had made any racist or anti-Semitic remarks last Thursday or in October.

"He (Galliano) has never said such things whether on the 24th [of February] or in October," Zerbib said today.

Dior is one of the biggest fashion brands alongside Louis Vuitton at LVMH, the world's No. 1 luxury group controlled and headed by French billionaire Bernard Arnault.

Galliano, who was named British designer of the year four times, previously worked at Givenchy, where he was succeeded by the late Alexander McQueen who later created his own label, now part of the French group PPR.

Zerbib today declined to comment on a video posted on the website of British tabloid The Sun, which the newspaper claimed showed Galliano insulting women in a bar.