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French Elle under fire for calling Obamas first fashionable Black Americans

January 26, 2012 - London

French Elle has been accused of racism after suggesting that the Obamas are the first African-Americans to be fashionable.

In what has been interpreted as an outdated and insulting move, a fashion blogger for the magazine's site posted a piece about the US First Lady's sartorial prowess and the rise of a "black-geoisie".

New York Daily News went so far as to brand the magazine as "racist", while elsewhere online the blog has caused uproar.

Writing about the first family on the magazine's site, Nathalie Dolivo claims that the Obamas are the catalyst for a "black fashion renaissance".

She suggests that America's first black president has finally given the black community a "chic" option other than "streetwear codes".

"Michelle Obama sets the tone, focusing on cutting-edge brands ... revisiting the wardrobe of Jackie O in a jazzy way," the Daily Mail quoted Dolivo as writing on the website.

She believes black fashion in 2012 comprises a "black-geoisie", a formula of fashion-forward black dressing that mixes "white codes" - whatever they may be - with touches of African heritage, such as shells and "boubous" (West African robes).

"There is always a classic twist, with a bourgeois ethnic reference (a batik-printed turban or robe, a shell necklace, a creole de rappeur) that recalls the roots," the writer said.

The misjudged piece, which appears to have since been removed from, has spawned a vehement backlash.

The same site noted that French Elle readers were the first to express indignation at the 'ethnographic research'.

"This is GROTESQUE, SHAMEFUL, and USELESS. White dress codes? Did I really read white dress codes..?" one reader wrote.

"You really think we waited until the Obamas to know style and let go of our 'streetwear' proclivities?" another writer wrote.

Comments reflect a sense of disbelief, with many bitterly sarcastic reactions.

"How, in 2012, in a France where there are at least three million blacks and mixed people, can you write such nonsense? You are too kind when you write that in 2012 we have incorporated the white codes...what do you think, in 2011, we dressed in hay and burlap bags?" one reader asked.

The fashion site The Gloss also wrote on the same topic.

"French Elle writer Nathalie Dolivo is so happy about black people! She's thrilled that they've finally learned to dress well! Yes, after generations mired in baggy pants and rap music and such, they finally have Barack and Michelle Obama to look to. Thanks, Obamas!" The Gloss wrote.

Elle isn't alone in the magazine world for making racial slurs. Italian Vogue found itself in hot water last year for writing about the trend for "slave" earrings, a gaffe they said was down to a mistranslation.


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