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Image: John Galliano
Jacques Brinon  /  AP
Officials say Dior designer John Galliano, pictured in a file photo, appeared in a Paris police station Monday to face the accusations against him.
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updated 3/1/2011 7:13:33 PM ET 2011-03-02T00:13:33

This time, John Galliano, long a top fashion-world provocateur on and off the runway, went too far.

The storied French label Christian Dior said Tuesday it was firing the zany British bad boy after a video showing him spouting "I love Hitler" in a drunken rant went viral online — sending shock waves through the start of Paris Fashion Week.

The ouster followed a barrage of accusations and revelations about Galliano's outbursts that spelled major career trouble for the talented and moneymaking couturier.

The allegations of bigotry had put Dior, which battles crosstown rival Chanel for the title of world's top fashion house, in the hot seat: Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman, the new advertising face of the Miss Dior Cherie perfume line, who is Jewish, expressed fury over the remarks.

Galliano's sacking marked the latest bout of scandal to shake the rarified fashion world, including last year's suicide of Alexander McQueen, another celebrated British designer, and supermodel Kate Moss' brief stint in the industry wilderness after photos of her snorting cocaine went public in 2005.

"Knowing John's proclivity for provocation on the runway and in life, to hear such accusations wasn't surprising," said Dana Thomas, a fashion guru and author of "Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster," an expose of the luxury industry.

"But the videos that went viral yesterday were too damning to deny," she said. "I'm sure (Dior CEO Sidney) Toledano was deeply hurt because he's Jewish."

"It's an insolence that's unforgivable," she added.

'I love Hitler'
Fashionistas almost uniformly said Dior would pull through the controversy, and some even suggested the episode gave it a chance to clean its slate after Galliano's 15-year rein as its mastermind of creation.

The 50-year-old designer's tailspin began after a couple accused him of hurling anti-Semitic insults at them Thursday at La Perle, a trendy eatery in Paris' Marais district — a hip neighborhood known for its sizable gay and Jewish populations.

As word got out that police were investigating, another woman came forward Saturday accusing Galliano of similar anti-Semitic insults in October at the same brasserie.

An apparent smoking gun emerged Monday when the British daily The Sun posted a video on its website showing Galliano, his speech slurred, appearing to taunt two women diners.

At one point, a woman's voice asks Galliano, "Are you blond, with blue eyes?"

Galliano replied: "No, but I love Hitler, and people like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would be ... gassed and ... dead."

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Making anti-Semitic remarks can bring up to six months in prison in France, and Galliano appeared in a Paris police station Monday to face the accusations against him.

In what some hailed as an appropriate and quick response, Christian Dior SA said Tuesday it had launched termination proceedings for Galliano and decried "the particularly odious nature of the behavior and words" in the video.

Galliano's lawyer did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

'Extremely sad'
News of Galliano's firing hit Tuesday's start of Paris' nine-day-long ready-to-wear marathon like a tidal wave, with journalists, editors and stylists reading out Dior's statement on a shuttle bus between shows.

Some murmured that Dior had long been looking to part with Galliano, and this was a way out. Others feared that it might bring his brilliant career to a tragic finish — and possibly overshadow his legacy.

Dior said it still planned to go ahead with its Galliano-designed fall-winter 2011-12 collection on Friday as part of Paris fashion week.

Trying to limit the fallout, press officers at the designer's signature label, John Galliano, spent much of the day checking with journalists, critics, stylists and editors to make sure they would be attending its women's wear show, scheduled for Sunday.

Questions were bound to arise about whether Galliano's fame and fawning fans had gone to his head, or whether he had succumbed to the pressures of the high-octane, big-payoff industry.

"The situation is extremely sad. Creative people like John — great artists, great writers — often wrestle with the devil in the form of the bottle or drugs," Joanna Coles, editor-in-chief of American Marie Claire, said. After seeing the video, she said, "You were left thinking, 'What on earth was he thinking?'"

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"The pressure is probably less when you start somewhere than when you've been there for some time and have to continue to produce at such a high level," she said. "We're very curious to see who replaces John."

The guessing-game got going in earnest from the moment it became clear Galliano was out.

While some fashion insiders put their money on Alber Elbaz, who has transformed Lanvin from a musty old label into one of Paris' hottest, others said Givenchy's Riccardo Tischi was their man.

Since his appointment in 1996, Galliano, who was born in Gibraltar and grew up in London, made an indelible mark on the storied House of Dior. Season after season, he reinterpreted the iconic New Look pieces pioneered by founder Christian Dior, managing to make the designs first fielded after World War II fresh and youthful.

Galliano's glorious past collections channeled inspiration like ancient Egypt — with models in Nefertiti eye makeup and King Tut beards — as well as Masai tribespeople accessorized with rows of beaded necklaces and crop-brandishing equestrians of the 19th century.

Always theatrical and sometimes outrageous, Galliano's star-studded runway shows are big-budget blockbusters and among the most-anticipated displays on the Paris calendar.

For years, Galliano has made a spectacle of himself at the end of his shows, prancing out in a rooster-style strut, arms akimbo, his chin up and head cocked back. Backstage he holds court for reporters' questions and fan emulation while seated on a high-backed chair resembling a throne.

'A bold move'
Galliano's days holding court at Dior are over.

The last straw appeared to be a statement by Portman, who won an Oscar on Sunday for "Black Swan," expressing shock and disgust at the video. "As an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way," she said.

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Marcellous Jones, editor-in-chief of thefashioninsider.com magazine, said he was "really surprised that Dior actually had the conviction to fire John Galliano because he makes them a lot of money."

"I think we were all expecting them to send him to rehab and so they are actually firing him. It's a bold move," he said. "It marks a dramatic end to one of the greatest eras in the history of the house of Dior in terms of its international reputation."

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, praised Dior's move in a statement saying Galliano's words had caused pain around the world — notably among Holocaust survivors and their relatives.

"The fact that someone is brilliant in a certain field does not immunize him from facing the consequences of words that are hateful, bigoted or prejudiced," Foxman said. "Galliano is a public figure with a high profile, but he is apparently also a serial bigot."

Outside Dior's flagship store on ritzy Avenue Montaigne in Paris, fashion aficionados expressed surprise and anger.

"I'm shocked because the name of Dior has always been related to John Galliano — he's creative, he's a big designer, and everybody is waiting for his fashion show every season," said Shams, a Kuwaiti singer. "I can't believe it."

AP Fashion Writer Samantha Critchell in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Best of Fashion Week Fall 2011

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  1. New York Fashion Week Fall 2011

    The biggest designers in fashion reveal their fall collections at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. Take a look at the most interesting trends and fun styles from the top shows.

    Marchesa
    Celebrity-favorite Marchesa sent models down the runway in theatrical gowns that were heavy on lace, tulle and volume. Inspired by the character of Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ "Great Expectations" – a British spinster who refused to wear anything but a decaying wedding gown – Marchesa’s floor-length dresses featured intricate embroidery, ruffles and sheer elegance. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Anna Sui

    It was all fun, pop colors and psychedelic prints at the Anna Sui Fall 2011 collection. Models displayed girly baby doll dresses, jumpers and schoolgirl knee-high socks. Layering was dominant as was fur in coats, hats and capes. (AP, Reuters, Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Adrienne Vittadini

    Adrienne Vittadini featured a clean and comfortable ethic for fall. For day, loose knits in neutral shades were prevalent, paired with stretchy trousers or leather leggings. For night, Vittadini relied less on what's trendy or avant-garde, and more on designs that highlight women's natural curves. Her princess seaming, modest hemlines and scoop necks are perfect for any woman channeling her inner Grace Kelly. (Mike Coppola / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Kevork Kiledjian

    Kevork Kiledjian featured sexy, bold leather styles, paired with fringes and sheer shirts — a wardrobe Catwoman would meow for. In a New York Times interview, the designer said he intended his collection to be "a harmony of opposites, such as mixing leather and lace, and playing with lengths." (firstVIEW) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Badgley Mischka

    The designer duo showed the audience a return to restrained glamour, with a dress-heavy collection that relied on color and texture to set the mood. Dolman sleeves were prevalent, as was sheer detailing (a trend that's sticking around for another season). The couture dresses were spectacular and featured fringe, cascading ruffles, sequins and satin bows to great success. (Wireimage) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Thakoon

    While gray was big on the runway for Fashion Week Fall 2011, Thakoon — one of Michelle Obama's favorite designers — featured bright plaid and festive tribal prints. (Chris Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Ann Yee

    A model wears a bold, rich creation from the Ann Yee presentation on Feb. 10, 2011. The designer sought to incorporate "the dark reflections of emotion" for her latest collection, taking inspiration from John Keats' poem, "When I Have Fears." (Keith Lew) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Victoria Beckham

    Models walk the runway during the Victoria Beckham Fall 2011 presentation. The former Spice Girl featured flowy gowns in strong colors, including bright yellow and red, and knee-length styles in muted beige-like tones. (Peter Michael Dills / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rebecca Minkoff

    The Rebecca Minkoff Fall/Winter 2011 collection was infused with the trendy boho-meets-rocker vibe. Everything was either black or neutral, which served as a contrast to Minkoff's brightly colored shoes and handbags. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Jill Stuart

    The Jill Stuart Fall/Winter 2011 collection focused on winter hue staples, such as navy and camel, accented with bright colors like red and teal. Dresses featured owl and fox prints, gold embellishments and ladylike pleats. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. BCBG Max Azria

    The BCBG Max Azria Fall 2011 collection highlighted soft, feminine style with models sashaying down the runway in long, layered and breezy silhouettes reminiscent of a glamorous ‘70s party. Silk-chiffon and crepe were popular, as were sheer turtlenecks and delicate pleats. (AFP - Getty Images (3),AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Vena Cava

    Glamorous glitter stole the show at the Vena Cava Fall 2011 runway presentation at New York Fashion Week. Models strut down the runway in ‘90s inspired cropped tops, cutout styles and flowy long skirts.

    Vena Cava designers Sophie Buhai and Lisa Mayock took their ode to the past one step further by distributing a ‘zine dedicated to the ‘90s, highlighting pop culture favorites such as “Saved by the Bell” and Calvin Klein ads. (Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. AP
    Above: Slideshow (12) Best of Fashion Week Fall 2011
  2. Image: The Blonds - Runway - Fall 2011 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
    Fernanda Calfat / Getty Images
    Slideshow (45) Wackiest Fashion Week styles

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