When writers touch on the influence and impact of black style, it can often reveal prejudices and feelings of superiority they may harbor toward our community, especially if it’s a non-American publication writing the piece. Such was the case when a writer for Elle France‘s fashion blog, Nathalie Dolivo, published an article about “Black Fashion Power” that was aimed at celebrating black style. Instead, it lampooned it.

Referencing Solange Knowles, Janelle Monae and Michelle Obama, Dolivo noted that black women were “ditching street style and embracing white codes.” Really? How can an educated writer make the claim that every black woman (because we all dress the same, you know) prefers the “street style” of dress. And after she discovered Michelle Obama, Solange and Janelle (only three examples of a myriad of black women who exhibit class, sophistication and impeccable style), she had the audacity to determine we’ve finally abandoned our “street” ways and are embracing “white codes.” I didn’t realize only white people could dress in a dignified way (insert sarcasm).

The insults continue. Dolivo goes on to claim: “Michelle Obama sets the tone, focusing on cutting-edge brands….revisiting the wardrobe of Jackie O in a jazzy way.” Though she’s not the first to compare Michelle Obama to Jackie O., we detest that her statement reeks of a black woman simply copying a white woman’s look, when Michelle’s style is definitively hers.

Furthermore, she stated that the “black-geosie” has “returned to style as a source of dignity.” Our “return” to “dignity” insinuates we weren’t dignified to begin with, a claim that couldn’t be further from the truth given our rich history of style, class and innovation in fashion.

Thankfully, Elle France’s readers didn’t hesisitate to speak out about her article. Following the uproar, Elle France removed the article but failed to release an apology. I can only hope that the next celebration of black style is written by someone with a modicum of education on the topic at hand.

What do you think of Nathalie’s statements? Do you find them offensive?

-Krystal Holmes


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