A French fashion designer has been forced to apologise for saying the new luxury hotel he plans to open in Paris “won’t be open to Chinese tourists”.
Thierry Gillier, founder of label Zadig and Voltaire, sparked fury on Chinese social networking sites after making the controversial statement in an interview with magazine Women’s Wear Daily.
In the original article, he was quoted as saying: “It will be a slightly private hotel, not open to everybody, with 40 rooms. We are going to select guests. It won’t be open to Chinese tourists, for example. There is a lot of demand in Paris – many people are looking for quiet with a certain privacy.”
The article has since been amended on Mr Gillier’s request, with “Chinese tourists” replaced by “busloads of tourists”.
But that did not stop outraged messages on websites in China going viral.
“This is obviously racial discrimination. Not every Chinese is uncultivated, there are many more who are cultured,” said one user on popular Chinese portal Sina.com.
“I think this pretentious brand will lose an important market if it really turns down Chinese.”
Luxury fashion blogger Bag Snob® tweeted: “I (along w/all Chinese) am not welcome at Zadig et Voltaire hotels, so I’ll stop shopping there.”
The number of Chinese visitors to France rocketed by 23.9 per cent last year to reach 1.1 million, making it their favourite European destination, and they spent around £45 billion on luxury goods.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Gillier said the remarks had been taken out of context and apologised for any offence caused.
“These reported words do not reflect either my line of thought or my ethics,” he said.
Mr Gillier insisted his comments were taken out of context.
“My remarks were doubtless clumsy and, taken out of their context, I understand they might have hurt my friends from China, France or elsewhere, and I am deeply sorry for that.”
His aim had been to underscore the “intimate” nature of the hotel, the statement said, but that he “admits he expressed himself in an inappropriate way to explain that his hotel was not suited to mass tourism”.
The Zadig hotel is due to open in 2014 on Paris’s chic Left Bank.