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Disgraced Fashion Designer Makes Unlikely Comeback In Russia

Disgraced Designer Galliano Starts New Gig With Russian Company
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WATCH: L'Etoile announced British fashion designer John Galliano -- who was spurned in the West after vitriolic outbursts targeting Jews, Asians, and others -- as its new creative director at a lavish party in Moscow on May 22. (Reuters video)

After shunning the spotlight since an anti-Semitic outburst put an abrupt end to this career three years ago, British fashion designer John Galliano is making an unlikely comeback.

The disgraced designer has chosen to reenter the public eye in Russia, a country itself under intense Western fire over its actions in Ukraine, swelling the ranks of prominent scandal-hit foreigners seeking a new lease of life in Moscow.

Galliano was formally consecrated as the new creative director of L'Etoile, a Russian cosmetics chain, during a lavish show held on May 22 in one of Moscow's most exclusive suburbs.

L'Etoile announced Galliano's new job in a press release entitled "John is back."

The retailer said he would be responsible for developing its house cosmetics brand.

Galliano's appointment has sparked mixed reactions. Some commentators have noted the irony of someone with an anti-Semitic record relocating to Russia, which has cast itself as a bulwark against an alleged resurgence of fascism in Ukraine and the west.

Russia, which has faced stinging criticism from the West over a recent ban on homosexual "propaganda," also seems an odd choice for an openly gay man like Galliano.

L'Etoile, while Russia's largest cosmetics chain with 850 branches across the country, is still a far cry from the illustrious French fashion houses that once employed Galliano.

But after the anti-Semitism scandal that cut short his 15-year career at Christian Dior and turned him into a pariah, the shamed designer appears grateful for the job.
Galliano is surrounded by officers as he leaves a police station in Paris in February 2011.
Galliano is surrounded by officers as he leaves a police station in Paris in February 2011.

"This is an opportunity and a great challenge for me," he told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency. "I think the results will be beautiful and inspiring."

Galliano, widely considered one of the most talented designers alive, fell from grace after he was caught drunk on video praising Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and insulting two Jewish Italian women at a Paris cafe.

"I love Hitler," he told the women in the December 2010 incident. "People like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers would be f***g dead, f***g gassed."

Galliano later profusely apologized for his remarks, which he blamed on work-related stress and drug abuse.

He was nonetheless fined $8,400 over the outburst and other racist comments made a year earlier. France stripped him of the prestigious Légion D'Honneur medal it had awarded him in 2009.

In an interview in "Vanity Fair" magazine last year, he said he was "grateful" for his disgrace because it had forced him to confront his drug and alcohol addiction.

As its ties with the West rapidly deteriorate, Russia has taken pride in championing prominent Westerners who have fallen out with their governments.

French actor Gerard Depardieu took up residency in Russia last year following a bitter tax row with French authorities.

U.S.-intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden, wanted in his country for leaking thousands of classified documents, has also found refuge in Russia.

But while Snowden is living at an undisclosed location in Russia, John Galliano doesn't seem to have relinquished his extravagant lifestyle in his new homeland.

The designer has reportedly been staying in the 370-square-meter presidential suite of a swanky Moscow hotel for the immodest sum of almost $12,000 per night.

In an ironic hint to Russia's own tribulations, the hotel is named "Ukraine."