It is customary in diplomatic exchanges to offer gifts. For his first visit to the White House which starts today May 18th 2012 on the occasions of the G8 and OTAN meetings, the newly elected French president François Hollande is reported to bring presents for Michelle Obama that are unusual...
It is more usual to offer gifts emanating from the high-luxury French fashion brands that are known worldwide. But rather than bring a present signed Dior, Hermès or Chanel, president Hollande will be offering a handbag from Le Tanneur and beauty products from Sothys as they are seen to reflect the know-how of the people of Corrèze.
Out of loyalty for the region that has been his "fiefdom" for 30 years, the new French president has had special attentions for his former region although he is himself originally from Normandy. In general, his campaign has underlined his "provincial" roots and persona although once again, reality is more complex than any over-simplifications: he lived in the upper-crusty suburb of Paris, Neuilly-sur-Seine, from the age of 14. When the government was formed on Wednesday, the press mapped out the regions of origin of the 34 ministers showing that most of France was represented.
Le Tanneur call their tressed Vicky cabas or tote "legendary", which would let us guess that it will be offered unless they have another special sample in reserve. Given the style of the presidency so far, which hinges on the concept of "normality", it is doubtful that they would have requested a special "Michelle" bag. The brand just added a burnt orange color to the Vicky line.
Sothys is a spa and beauty brand named after the brightest star in the sky in the mythology of the Ancient Egyptians for whom it symbolized eternal beauty. They have a large offering including a prestige line, an organic line and a men's line. They also offer a Sensorial collection of body fragrances. The latest 2012 limited-edition perfume is Iris and Litchi Sensorial Escape. Apparently, Michelle Obama likes fruity fragrances.
According to newspaper Le Figaro interviewing Sothys, the products that have been chosen for Michelle Obama are the Hydradvance and Hanakasumi lines. The latter uses cherry extract, an ingredient used in Japan. Bernard Mas, the CEO of the brand commented that "Americans have slightly more oily skins than Europeans, what you need therefore in this case are lighter products".