'I remember nothing', says John Galliano

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The Independent Online

Shamed fashion designer John Galliano cannot remember an anti-Semitic rant he is facing criminal charges over because he was out of control on drugs and pills at the time, a court heard today.

The British former Dior star - he was sacked after the incident - said he was addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs at the time.

"I have a triple addiction. I'm a recovering alcoholic and a recovering addict," he told the court.

He said he started drinking in 2007 and became addicted to alcohol, barbiturates and sleeping pills.

He said he had since undergone rehabilitation treatment in Arizona for two months and in Switzerland.

"After every creative high, I would crash and the alcohol helped me," he said, adding that his creativity "helped make Dior a billion-dollar business."

Asked why he didn't tell police investigators about his addictions, Galliano responded: "I was in denial. I was still taking those pills and alcohol, and I was in complete denial."

Galliano's appearance at the one-day trial in Paris put him in the public eye for the first time in months.

In a conservative look for him, he was dressed in black with a polka dot neckerchief, wearing a pencil moustache and long hair.

Galliano is charged with "public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity" and could face up to six months in prison and 22,500 euros (£20,000) in fines. The verdict is expected at a later date.

The designer was escorted to a front-row seat in the wood-panelled, gilded courtroom at the Justice Palace, sitting next to an interpreter as he faced the three judges presiding over his fate.

Asked about the specifics of the evening of February 24, 2011, when he allegedly attacked a couple in a Paris cafe with the insults, Galliano repeatedly said he remembered nothing.

Days after the February bar incident, a video was shown on the website of The Sun showing an inebriated Galliano insulting a fellow cafe client, slurring: "I love Hitler."

In court, Galliano described increasing work loads at Dior and his signature label, John Galliano, in part as a response to the financial crisis. "They kept me very busy," he said, adding that he had not had time to mourn after the 2007 death of his right hand man and the 2005 death of his father.

His lawyer, Aurelien Hamelle, said outside court that the designer's comments were "misplaced and hurtful" but attributed them to Galliano's addition to alcohol and prescription drugs.

Galliano issued a statement at the time saying: "Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologise for my behaviour in causing any offense." He also said he was "seeking help" for personal failures.

The lawyer said he would be calling witnesses at the cafe during both incidents who say they did not hear any insults by Galliano.

French law prohibits public insults toward others because of their origins, race or religion.

If the court determines that the insults against the victims were heard by other people, it would be a crime and a conviction could lead to a prison term. If such insults were not witnessed, they would only amount to a petty offence and be punishable by a fine.

The February cafe incident and the video reverberated throughout the fashion world because they emerged on the eve of Paris Fashion Week. Dior fired Galliano after 14 years with the company and denounced his comments.

The trial is being held on the opening day of another round of Paris fashion shows, the menswear spring-summer 2012 collection.