Friday, January 23, 2009

Does The First Lady Have a "Duty" to Wear Clothing by Black American Designers?

Source: Mrs.O

Some people think she does. In a brief snippet that appeared in WWD, The Black Artists Association is criticizing Mrs. Obama for wearing clothing by Jason Wu and Isabel Toldedo on Inaguration Day and not garments designed by African-Americans.

Organization co-founder Amnau Eele said that she is planning to make a "formal appeal" to Mrs. Obama on behalf of the organization adding that “It’s fine and good if you want to be all ‘Kumbaya’ and ‘We Are the World’ by representing all different countries. But if you are going to have Isabel Toledo do the inauguration dress, and Jason Wu do the evening gown, why not have Kevan Hall, B Michael, Stephen Burrows or any of the other black designers do something too?... She continued, “It’s one thing to look at the world without color but she had seven slots to wear designer clothes. Why wasn’t she wearing the clothes of a black designer? That was our moment.”

Hmm. Though I personally would also like to see the First Lady sporting an ensemble by Tracey Reese some day I just have to call bullshit on this complaint. Inauguration Day wasn't just a moment for black designers, it was America's moment and to me, this complaint just comes across as childish.

Clothing is personal and most people pick clothing that a) they like, b) looks good on them. As much as I like seeing celebrities (of all races) walk the red carpet in gowns by designers like Kevan Hall, not every Kevan Hall dress is going to look good on every body.

I think both of Mrs. Obama's ensembles that day fit her particular aesthetic and since she does seem fond of discovering new designers, I would be surprised if she doesn't eventually wear clothing by up and coming black designers as well.

It seem to me that instead of a harsh criticism, Ms. Eele should be studying Mrs. Obama's style and sending her best sketches to the First Lady's office.

What do you think? Does Ms. Eele raise a valid point or is this just sour grapes?

ETA: explores fashipns "unsettled" relationship with The First Lady.

During the campaign, designers, from Marc Jacobs to Tory Burch, celebrated Obama in a frenzy of T-shirts and tote bags that conflated change and style. But despite such liberal goodwill, the industry is overwhelmingly white, both in its makeup and its view of its customer. Not long ago, Stefano Pilati, the designer of Yves Saint Laurent, saw no problem telling Robin Givhan of the Washington Post that black models just don’t look right in his clothes. Michelle’s rumored cover aside, Vogue has only ever had five black celebrities (including LeBron James) on its cover.

An even more vexing question when it comes to Michelle is the fact that she uses fashion but is not defined by her interest in it. She’s no Jackie Kennedy, whose tenure as First Lady is remembered precisely for her interest in style. This seems an unlikely course for Michelle Obama. Here is a beautiful, well-dressed woman for whom fashion is a sidebar.


Ebony Intuition said...

Her view point is sour grapes .

I loved that Michelle wore up and coming designers and not big name labels that everyone is use to. I adore Michelle's style and im very sure she will include designs from african americans very soon.

Ogegevivkie said...

...and why didn't Amnau request that Michelle and Barack wear Baby Phat, Sean John and House of Dereon clothes for the inauguration festivities? I mean, these clothes are designed black designers too right? talk about pseudo-intellectualism. So Michelle now has to compromise her freedom and restrict her taste because she wasnts make to black designers and a bunch of ramblings iditos like Amnau happy?

*rolls eyes*

I won't dignify this claptrap any further by any more intelligent responses. SMH


I think the complaint is ridiculous and silly considering the context of the event in question. I think this group is missing the salient point in that Michelle Obama is the first lady for all Americans not just Black Americans. I would think that a sense of National and racial pride would be in order for this moment, not nitpicking over the race of Mrs. Obama’s designer. I'm sure she'll manage to wear a black designers’ creation one day. I, for one, thought it was quite lovely that the designers chosen are themselves minorities. However, as long as the first lady’s choices remain innovative & cutting edge I will continue to be pleased and excited by her choices regardless of the designer. I’d sure love to take a wardrobe inventory of the Organizations co-founder to ascertain how many Black designers she supports. I imagine the results of my query would prove a very diverse wardrobe, not unlike any other fashion conscious woman.

Shari said...

I think it's bs as well. Fact of the matter is, the first lady should be allowed to dress the way she wants in a way that suits her and makes her feel good, especially on such a big day. Simple as that. Let her be.

Style Noir said...

Sour grapes, indeed!

With you all the way, B.

Style Noir said...

Also, I'm all about Style Noir-- but I, too, live in J. Crew.

Anonymous said...

i think it is hypocritical of them to make that statement!!! Its all about CHANGE and giving other people in fashion a chance than your regular names.

Camille Acey said...

Our moment? Dude, this group needs to can it. Michelle Obama can wear whatever she wants to wear. She wasn't being all "We Are The World" (what the hell kind of statement is that anyway?), she was wearing things she LIKED. When I look at shoes or clothes, I am more concerned about whether I like the cut and the fit, and very little about whose name is on the tag. Frankly, at the end of the day, almost all our clothes are made by shivering Asians and Eastern Europeans any damn way.

Someone give me the phone, I need to call bullshit.

Ogegevivkie said...

...and by the way, I love Michelle's flats.

Triniqueen said...

Why do we black people have to bring each other down. This is a bunch of BS. As far as I know America is a free country and being the First Lady, Michelle can wear whatever she wants regardless of race as long that it looks good. You really can't please too many people these days.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by these comments, particularly because the Obamas' ethnicity overwhelmingly contributes to their warm reception by the masses. Isn't that half the reason why we love them? Let's tell it like it is. I find it hard to believe that we'd be so neutral about their racial associations now, even where fashion is concerned. If somebody keeps track and reveals in 6 months that Black designers are missing from the first lady's closet, you may be singing a different tune. Perhaps its the timing and a sense that nobody wants to make demands on her just yet. It's not like she's being singled out for an obligation to look good, though. Big time designers gave Hilary Clinton grief for her pantsuits, urging her to look more feminine. Just as she was asked to represent her gender, Mrs. O is being asked to represent her ethnicity.
Also, the flats have to go. Im surprised that she went to church in them, because even a kitten heel could make that homely dress less of a PTA meeting outfit.

Ogegevivkie said...

@ Anonymous

Um, the flats have to stay and I mean permenantly stay. Forgive Michelle if she chooses comfort over pain. I've never really understood this notion of having to put yourself through torture for the sake of fashion. I mean, isn't the concept of clothes suppose to be making people feel comfortable? the flats look good on her, she looks relaxed, the flowy dress too has a young, hip and fresh feel to it and I'm sure it was a comfortable dress.

WORK IT OUT Michelle, you look fab!

Aquarian Thoughts said...

I read this topic being discussed on another blog and found the comments to be, um . . .informative. Most definitely provided a peek into conversations you probably won't hear in your presence. . . .

And keep in mind I'm not doing this to get anyone upset, I can be somewhat of a voyeur and just found the discussion to be interesting . . .

Talya said...

I agree with B.

Mrs. O obviously enjoys fashion and I'm enjoying the results. I don't always think her choices are flattering but she's got four years to show us what she's got. I'm sure she will wear the designs of African Americans during her tenure.

Ogegevivkie said...

@ Aquarian Thoughts

Well, I followed the link you posted and it has only 2 comments. Since when has 2 comments become an engaging "discussion"? so engaging that you would beg on us to go and read? 2 comments? are you just trying to stir up some controversy? for all we know you wrote those comments yourself and add more fodder to my suspicion, those who posted those comments are listed as "anonymous". Hmm, I wonder why!

Anonymous said...

No Ogegevivkie, the concept of clothes is not to make people feel comfortable. We have nudity for that. When is the last time you saw someone wear sweats on the cover of Vogue? A wedding dress made of elastic or a man's suit cut from terrycloth? Clothing as pertaining to fashion (and subsequently, this blog) is about expression, design and a quest for innovation. If even a kitten heel is too much for Mrs. Obama to bear during a semi-formal welcome of White House guests, I suggest she go ahead with the barefoot technique, because there are shoes that help to convey her status without risking corns and bunions. The notion that Michelle would endure "torture" in any other shoes is highly presumptuous. If Barack was standing next to her without a neck tie in that picture, we'd never hear the end of it. At least women have choices. Dresses, pants, skirts, stilettos, kitten heels. "Comfort" depends on the occasion, and I don't see anyone suggesting that she add sneakers to this ensemble.

Ondo Lady said...

I think that the BAA need to get a grip. It is a free country and as long as Mrs O looks classy then I don't care what designer she wears. I also think it a big shame that such a historical event has been marred slightly by this nonsense.

Hey Brigitte for once we agree on something.

Anonymous said...

I think Michelle Obama looks tackey most of the time...she needs a good stylist...her problem is she is trying to pick out things on her own and it just isn't working-ordering something from J. Crew here-buying something from her fav boutique in Chicago there...The First Lady needs a stylist to help her pull it all together and give her a signature look....Jacqueline Kennedy worked closely with the same designer for years to develop her look and style...Instead of skipping around all over the place Mrs. Obama should follow the Kennedy example and choose one great designer or stylist to work that she has a cohesive look.


Brigitte said...

@Ondo Lady "Hey Brigitte for once we agree on something."

LOL! I knew it would happen sooner or later.


I don't think Mrs. Obama needs to follow anyone's example. Though you may not agree, I think she does a fine job picking out her own clothes and has never looked "tackey" [sic].

Ogegeevivkie said...

@ Anonymous - talking about how clothes are not made for comfort

...ok! if clothes are not made for comfort, then why aren't you walking around naked in your every day life? go to school naked, go to work naked, go to the mall naked, go naked everywhere. Practice what you read. Don't just write for the sake of it.

Brigitte said...

Moderator's Note:

So "Anonymous" posted another reply to Ogegevivkie but I've decided not to publish it. I think both of you have made your points and we don't really need to start another round of the back and forth. Ogegevivkie, if you want to read the final message by "Anonymous" just email me and I'll send it to you.

Rosaxe said...

@Anon - You may not like her style, but why is it of the utmost importance that she develop a sense of fashion? Michelle Obama is more than just a woman who wears clothes -- she's intelligent, educated and describes herself as a mother first. Frankly, if she makes her next public appearance in sweats, the White House will not collapse. Perhaps Jackie Kennedy liked to spend her time with a stylist, but if Michelle decides to go for more fulfilling activities, that's great too.
*And being black is not half the reason why the Obamas are being embraced by the masses. They are a fresh breath of air after 8 years of bullshit.

Anonymous said...

I found this comment by the head of the BAA to be petty, presumptuous and premature.
There is more than a hint of cattiness in her saying "It's fine and good to be all Kumbaya and We Are the World by representing all different countries". It's a not too subtle strike back at the (also minority!) ethnicities of Mrs. Obama's Asian and Latina inauguration designers and it totally undermines the point she is trying to make. Why hit out at another minority?

Moreover, where the hell did she come up with the figure that Michelle had seven slots to wear different designers? Does she mean on Inauguration Day? Because Michelle wore two outfits - unless she's counting the nightie she woke up in. Huh?

Additionally I find her statement 'that was our moment' REALLY damn outta order. Excuse you? So Inauguration Day was intended to be a 'moment' for black designers? Stupid me, here I was thinking it was Pres. Obama's moment first and foremost and a celebration of the renewing power of democracy for everyone all over the world who supported his candidacy. I did not realise it was actually a moment for such a small sub-set of humanity. My bad.

Most of all, her comment is just waaaayyyy premature - she's literally sniping at Mrs. Obama on the first day! Lawd - hold strain a li'l bit - she has four years to wear a black designer and hopefully, eight! And I am sure she will.

Project Christopher said...

I think they all look great and I'm sure she'll cover the entire spectrum of fashion over the next 4 to(pray God)8 years.

but for someone to say that she should specifically pay attention to one ethnic group's fashions because she is that group makes me think of what Pres. Obama said about bringing us together as one nation and represent everyone.

Divalocity said...

When I first heard about this idiotic complaint my first thought was where has she and her organization been for the last eight years?

The entire fashion industry could have certainly used her vitriol to highlight the absence of women of color from the pages of fashion magazines and from the runways.

She could have used the same energy that she has directed toward Mrs. Obama against those fashion insiders who happen to be people of color such as, Andre Leon Talley, Joe Zee, Robin Givhan and Teri Agins.

These people are fashion industry insiders who have a huge amount of influence, who can usher in change of the fashion industry. Too bad they have not had the courage to do so, she can call them out on their shame.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

This is not a legit organization. No one ever heard of them until this article.

Michelle has worn black designers and will continue to do so.

This person is ignorant and rude.

Black Girl said...

omg... she hasn't even been first lady for a month! they need to calm down