GUERLAIN PATRIARCH FOUND GUILTY: A French court on Thursday found perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain guilty of uttering a racial slur during an interview on French television and sentenced him to a fine of 6,000 euros, or around $8,000 at current exchange.
The criminal court in Paris also ordered Guerlain, 75, to pay combined damages and costs of 4,000 euros, or $5,370, to each of the three antiracism groups that were associated with the case as civil plaintiffs.
This story first appeared in the March 30, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In an interview with public television station France 2 in October 2010, Guerlain used a derogatory French word to describe blacks in describing how hard he worked to create the famous Samsara fragrance, prompting civil rights groups to call for a consumer boycott of Guerlain products.
The cosmetics company issued a statement at the time, saying the perfumer’s comments were “intolerable” and went against the “culture, values and ethics practiced by the enterprise, which promotes the diversity of talents of all origins.”
Guerlain’s statement stressed that Jean-Paul Guerlain, the fourth and last generation in a family of noses, has not been a shareholder since 1996 and retired in 2002.
Guerlain had swiftly apologized for his “shocking statement.” At his trial, he told the court he had repeated an expression he had often heard from his grandfather as a youth.
“These remarks were common in my day, and thankfully they no longer are,” he said, according to a court transcript of the hearing. Guerlain apologized to the black community for his remarks, saying: “I am anything but racist.”
However, French media reported last month that Guerlain landed in hot water again after allegedly making racist remarks to three Eurostar employees who refused him access to his train because the perfumer, who uses a wheelchair, was late.