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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  • rouge

    unless i didnt see the rest of the article, fro what i’ve read it didn’t bash anyone. i speak french, it is y first language. the first part is praising solange & others. the second part stated that a lot of black are starting to make afros come back into style & has become a source of dignity for them.

    maybe i need to see the full article myself or the writer of this article is looking into it too deeply.

  • I speak french, I’m Jamaican born and live in Paris. Basically this was brought to my attention on Facebook, and the full article basically praises the Obamas for showing that black people can dress with “style” , like we’ve never had “style” before and that Michelle is kind of like a Jacki O, and that before this we ( black people) pretty much just wear streetwear. So yea, its offensive because sadly in France many people black and white don’t see the rich fashion/ style culture and contributions that african americans and people of african decent have made. In france its not as “revolutionized” as in the states. There was never any civil rights movement like in the states and the idea of equality and having a shared democratic outlook on your country does not really exist. In the US ofcrouse there is racism but in France there the double tranche of classism and racism against its minorities.

  • Sachiko

    I’m a black french girl, and YES her statments are offensive! But, I see this article as an oportunity for us to reply and talk openly about some “black people cliché”.This evening, on a tv show there was an interview with ELLE magazine editor and Audrey Poulvar (one of our french black journalist), the editor has apologized to peoples who have felt hurt by this article… If you want to watch the interview click this link http://www.canalplus.fr/c-divertissement/pid3349-c-le-grand-journal.html?vid=582427

  • frenchy

    I am a french (white) man and i am (again) ashamed of my country. This article was indeed totally racist, full of stereotypes, referring to black people as one community, all dressing the same way. How can my country ended up producing such articles? I think in many domains France is was behind because of some kind of conservatism: we still don’t have freedom of speech for example. Misogyny machismo and violence is tolerated. Justice is very lax.
    It’s good we get a feed back from abroad because French don’t want to admit all these, they still see themselves as ahead, giving lessons to others… but this time is over, way over!