John Galliano, the British designer sacked this week by fashion house Christian Dior, will be tried in a Paris court for allegedly making racist comments to customers in a café, the Paris prosecutor said on Wednesday.
The news came just hours after the designer apologised “unreservedly” for “causing any offence”.
Nonetheless, French judicial authorities said they were pressing ahead with charges on the basis of evidence provided by “three identified victims”.
The Paris prosecutor said making abusive comments about individuals because of their origin, religion or race was a criminal offence.
If found guilty, Mr Galliano could face up to six months in prison and a fine of €22,500 ($31,187).
The designer has been the focus of controversy since a couple filed a complaint with Paris police last week over comments he allegedly made in a café, and the release of an amateur video depicting Mr Galliano expressing admiration for Hitler and telling customers in a bar that they “would have been gassed”.
Judicial sources told the Financial Times that the footage had been taken as evidence against Mr Galliano, although the person who filmed it had still not been identified.
Mr Galliano was fired as head designer at Christian Dior on Tuesday for professional misconduct.
Natalie Portman, the Oscar-winning actress who has an advertising contract for a Dior perfume, has also said she does not want to be associated with Mr Galliano.
The designer has acknowledged that the accusations against him “have greatly shocked and upset people”.
“Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society,” he said in a statement, which reiterated his denial of claims made by the couple and his intention to begin proceedings for defamation, saying he was “subjected to verbal harassment and an unprovoked assault”, during the incident last week.
The defamation proceedings only concern the couple who made the original complaint. No decision has yet been taken regarding a second woman who made a similar complaint with the police at the weekend, Stephane Zerbib, Mr Galliano’s lawyer, confirmed.
Mr Galliano met the couple at a Paris police station as part of a police inquiry this week. Both the designer’s statement and Mr Zerbib made no comment regarding the video.
“I only have myself to blame and I know that I must face up to my own failures and that I must work hard to gain people’s understanding and compassion,” the designer said.
Christian Dior, which described the comments in the video as “odious”, declined to comment on Mr Galliano’s statement.
Additional reporting by Peggy Hollinger in Paris