It is no small irony that John Galliano's first fragrance since 2008 bears the name Parlez-moi d'Amour. Speak to me of love. Because now the fashion designer's life is forever changed because he was caught speaking words of hate.
The perfume had everything going for it: a Canadian launch leading up to Valentine's Day, a youthfully sweet, fruity floral scent, and the creative influence of a man known for being a rebel with a romantic streak. Now, the fragrance is being treated like a lover scorned.
As soon as Christian Dior fired Mr. Galliano, retailers began distancing themselves from his perfume.
Late last week, the Bay decided to remove Parlez-moi d'Amour from its shelves. "When we learned of the charges against Mr. Galliano, we immediately suspended sales of Galliano products from our stores," read a statement from the Canadian department store.
At Holt Renfrew, where the perfume is still available in all locations, action has been less decisive but cautious nonetheless. The retailer's official stance is: "The Parlez-moi d'Amour fragrance has minimal presence on the floors and there are no plans to market the fragrance going forward."
This is a dramatic shift from a few weeks ago when the perfume was being positioned as an ideal Valentine's Day gift.
Krikorian, the company that distributes the Galliano scent in Canada, is waiting for direction from the manufacturer (the licence is separate from Mr. Galliano, the person). "There's not much to tell you at this point. Everything is in a state of flux," says Jan Howe, vice-president of marketing and sales with Krikorian. "There were plans for the fragrance that have been put on hold with sensitivity to all the publicity."
Karen Grant, vice-president and senior global industry analyst with market research firm The NPD Group, notes retailers are in an awkward position. "You can't be associated with anything in question," she says from Port Washington, N.Y. She is not aware of any American stores pulling the fragrance.
"[The stores]are taking a stand," says Robert Passikoff, founder of New York-based Brand Keys, which tracks consumer perception of brands. "This is not something that retailers take lightly."
The "halo effect" can have a negative side when a famous name implodes. K-Mart, for example, suffered a major blow when Martha Stewart went to jail.
Still, it would seem that Dior cosmetics and fragrances remain largely unscathed. Beyond the designer's swift removal, the beauty side rarely played up his connection to the house. Mr. Galliano has also lent his name to a scented candle and room spray for Diptyque, a niche home fragrance line.
Nahla Saad, the owner of Noor, a Toronto boutique that carries the line, says she will not be reordering the Galliano products, at least for the foreseeable future. "I have a feeling the issue might become even bigger as he goes to trial," she says.
The face of Parlez-Moi d'Amour is Taylor Momsen, who's no stranger to controversy. The good-girl-gone-train-wreck teen actress, who has a minor role on the TV show Gossip Girl, does her best boudoir Lolita in the one-minute promotional video. Unlike Oscar-award-winning Natalie Portman, the face of Miss Dior Chérie perfume and arguably among the most significant catalysts in Mr. Galliano's dismissal, Ms. Momsen has kept quiet.
Parlez-moi d'Amour, named after a song, will likely disappear without regret. Few people would proudly admit to wearing a perfume connected to the scandal.
But there's also the possibility that some people may want to buy the envelope-shaped bottle as a souvenir of Mr. Galliano's downfall; priced at $89, it's more affordable than his clothes. Which is not to suggest the fragrance will, or should, appreciate in value. "There are lots of people who collect Nazi memorabilia," Mr. Passikoff points out. "There's certainly no accounting for taste."