A luxury shop owner in Zurich has apologized to US talk show host Oprah Winfrey, after denying that racism was involved when Oprah was discouraged from buying a 35,000 Swiss franc crocodile handbag.
Oprah, recently named the world’s most powerful celebrity by Forbes, was in Zurich for the wedding of singer Tina Turner when the incident occurred last month.
The billionaire media mogul told Entertainment Tonight that a shop assistant in luxury shop Trois Pommes refused to show her a “Jennifer” purse, designed by Tom Ford and named for actress Jennifer Aniston.
The owner put the incident down to a language barrier. “This is an absolute classic misunderstanding,” shop owner Trudie Goetz told Reuters. The sales assistant wanted to show Winfrey that the purse was also available in other materials, which may have given the TV host the impression the shop didn’t want to sell her the purse, Goetz said.
The shop assistant, Goetz said, described the black crocodile-skin bag created for Jennifer Aniston and told Winfrey there were less expensive versions in ostrich leather and suede.
Oprah, 59, who runs her own TV network, earned $77 million from June 2012 to June 2013, cementing the No. 1 spot on the Forbes list last month, the fifth time she has headed the annual ran
king of 100 celebrities.
The incident unleashed a volley of criticism in Switzerland, where revelations this week that asylum-seekers are not allowed free movement to public sports venues like municipal pools caused a stir.
Switzerland has contradictory attitudes towards foreigners: on the one hand, it employs large numbers of foreign professionals in big industries like finance, which accounts for roughly 6 percent of gross domestic product. On the other, the influential Swiss People’s Party has long made opposition to immigration a key plank of its electoral appeal.
Oprah was involved in another retail rebuff in Paris in 2005, when she was turned away from a Hermes boutique 15 minutes after closing time. The store said it was closed for a private public-relations event.