French Perfume Designer Under Fire for Racial Slur

CNN, October 16, 2010

French anti-racism group SOS-Racisme plans to file a legal complaint against perfume designer Jean-Paul Guerlain following a racist remark he made on French television.

Guerlain–who is no longer connected with the perfume company that bears his name–made the remarks during an interview with France 2 on Friday about his career and the making of Samsara, one of his famous perfumes he created to impress a woman.

“One day I told her–and I still called her Madame–‘What would seduce you if one was to make a perfume for you?’ and she told me, ‘I love jasmine, rose and sandalwood,'” Guerlain recalled.

“And for once I started working like a [racial epithet]. I don’t know if [racial epithet] ever worked that hard,” he said.

Guerlain issued an apology following the interview’s broadcast, which a France 2 anchor read during the network’s evening newscast.

“My words do not reflect in any way my profound thoughts but are due to an inopportune misspeaking which I vividly regret,” the apology read.

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SOS-Racisme said it is not satisfied with Guerlain’s apology and will bring action against him. Guerlain could be issued a fine if the complaint goes before a magistrate.

Louis-Georges Tin, a spokesman for the Council Representative of Black Associations, told French radio RTL that his group also will join in the complaint.

“{snip} These comments are racist, of course, which harken back to the colonial period and it seems unacceptable. For now, we are planning to file a complaint,” he [Tin] said.

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