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Guerlain heir in racism storm

media SOS-Racisme's logo

French perfume-maker Jean-Paul Guerlain faces prosecution by anti-racist groups after telling a television interviewer that he “worked like a nigger” to produce one of his most successful scents.

Guerlain, who is a descendant of the parfumier’s founder Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain, apologised for the remarks on Saturday.

But anti-racist campaigns, SOS Racisme and Le Cran, say they will press ahead with a court case, saying that they believe a trial will have great educational value. And they called on LVMH, the company which now owns Guerlain, to dissociate itself from the outburst.

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde on Saturday dubbed Guerlain’s remarks “pathetic”.

“I just hope that this is senile and crude and that the apology is really sincere and gracious,” she said on Saturday.

Guerlain’s used the N word – nègre in French -  during a midday news bulletin on Thursday, when he described the creation of the Samsara perfume - blend of sandalwood and jasmin inspired by his first wife.

“For once, I worked like a nigger,” he told the interviewer. “I don’t know if niggers really worked that much.”

Guerlain’s apology, in the form of an email, expressed regret that his words might damage the company’s image and pointed out that he is no longer a shareholder or employee of the company.

He is, however, a consultant to the company’s chief olfactory technician, or “nose”, Thierry Wasser.

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