Hermes president apologizes on-air to Oprah

21st September 2005, Comments 0 comments

CHICAGO, Sept 20 (AFP) - The tabloid war between Oprah Winfrey and French luxury retailer Hermès International ended in a decisive victory for the US talk show diva Monday when the company's president of US operations apologized on-air.

CHICAGO, Sept 20 (AFP) - The tabloid war between Oprah Winfrey and French luxury retailer Hermès International ended in a decisive victory for the US talk show diva Monday when the company's president of US operations apologized on-air.

Winfrey, who was recently named the most powerful celebrity in the US by Forbes magazine and is considered a cultural icon with an immeasurable influence over her millions of viewers, instigated a boycott after she was turned away from a Hermès store in Paris in June.

Tabloids were abuzz with the snub and Oprah's conviction that she was turned away because she was black.

A public apology by Hermès several days later merely fueled the flames because it implied she had tried bully her way into a store that had already closed.

"The store was in the process of being closed -- the store was very active," Oprah told her viewers on the opening show of her 20th season.

"The doors were not locked. My friends and I were standing inside the doorway, and there was much discussion among the staff about whether or not to let me in. That's what was embarrassing. I know the difference between a store being closed and a store being closed to me," said Winfrey.

Winfrey, who rose from modest means to build a global media empire that spans books, magazines and movies, often brings her personal life into her broadcasts and had threatened in June to discuss the incident when her show resumed. On Monday, she tried to explain to her viewers why she made such a fuss.

"Shame on anybody for thinking that I was upset for not being able to get in to a closed store and buy a purse. Please. I didn't get to be this old to be that stupid," she said. "Everybody's who has ever been snubbed because you were not chic enough or thin enough or the right class or the right color or whatever -- I don't know what it was -- you know that it is very humiliating."

However, Oprah lifted the boycott after Robert Chavez, the president and CEO of Hermès USA, told her Hermès has since introduced sensitivity training.

"I'd like to say to you that we're really sorry for all of those unfortunate circumstances that you encountered when you tried to visit our store in Paris," Chavez said.

"We really try to service all of our clients all over the world," Chavez said. "It was an isolated incident. It is not who we are."

Winfrey, who earned US $225 million last year (EUR 186 million) has some 30 million US viewers for her chat show, which is rebroadcast in more than 100 countries.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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