Fashion designer John Galliano faced trial Wednesday on charges that he launched anti-Semitic tirades in a Paris bar, which the fallen superstar is expected to blame on drug and alcohol addiction.
The 50-year-old couturier -- considered one of the finest fashion designers of his generation -- could face a sentence of six months in jail and a fine of 22,500 euros ($32,000) if convicted.
The British designer was arrested February 24 in a drunken state after a man and a woman in La Perle cafe in Paris's fashionable and historically Jewish Marais district alleged he subjected them to a stream of anti-Semitic abuse.
The woman said Wednesday that Mr. Galliano had sat next to their table and for 45 minutes delivered a string of insults about her appearance.
"First my clothes, then my body, then (he said) I was dirty. Then he called me a dirty Jew," Geraldine Bloch told news channel BFMTV.
Another woman later came forward to say she suffered a similar attack in October last year and then a video surfaced of Mr. Galliano insulting someone else in the same bar and declaring "I love Hitler."
Mr. Galliano has issued an apology for his behavior, but insisted it was not anti-Semitic. He has lodged a legal counter-suit against the couple in the first incident, alleging defamation.
But in the footage published online by Britain's Sun newspaper, a visibly drunk Mr. Galliano tells another couple in the same Paris bar: "I love Hitler."
He adds: "People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be f***ing gassed."
The release of the video prompted fashion house Dior to sack their star designer, saying his behavior and language was "particularly odious" and sending shockwaves through the Paris fashion world.
Five people are expected to testify in the trial, including two women who were sat next to him during the February 24 altercation who say they did not hear him say anything anti-Semitic.
But two Italian friends of the woman who was allegedly insulted by Mr. Galliano last year are set to confirm her version of events.
Mr. Galliano's lawyer has said that the varying testimonies show that there is some doubt about what was actually said.
Mr. Galliano himself "does not remember because he was in an altered state," said lawyer Aurelien Hamelle.
What he knows is that his alleged insults "do not reflect what he thinks. He's not anti-Semitic or racist," he said.
The flamboyant designer has "been doing nothing" since his spectacular fall from grace, Mr. Hamelle added.
"He's treating his addiction to alcohol and medication. He will think about his professional future" after the trial, he said.
The trial was set to open around 1130 GMT.