January 23rd, 2012
Blacks in Fashion, Fashion News
Elle France Causes Uproar with Article on “Black Fashion Power”
By Claire

In a a recent article, Elle France writer Nathalie Dolivo attempts to delve into the world of black fashion, writing that black women use fashion as a ‘political weapon,‘ and have ‘returned to style as a source of dignity.’

Citing the Obamas as the inspiration for this “ black fashion renaissance,” Dolivo says, “Michelle Obama sets the tone, focusing on cutting-edge brands….revisiting the wardrobe of Jackie O in a jazzy way.” She continues to write that while black women in the 30′s wore flapper dresses, and women in the 60′s were inspired by Angela Davis, black women of 2012 constitute a ‘black-geosie‘, integrating all the ‘white codes‘ of dress while adding twists like african print turbans and shell neckaces (!!!).
Her ethnographic research admittedly caused an uproar amongst Elle France readers, who wrote, “[This is] GROTESQUE, SHAMEFUL, and USELESS. White dress codes? Did I really read white dress codes..?” Another fervent reader said, “You really think we waited until the Obama’s to know style and let go of our ‘streetwear’ proclivities?” while another wrote, “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?” And the comments went on and on and on.
Dear Magazines: This is what happens when there are no black people on staff. It’s really crazy to think this woman believed black people, particularly African Americans, didn’t start ‘dressing up’ until Michelle Obama. This poor journalist clearly didn’t do any research at all; didn’t see the impact of the Supremes and Diana Ross in the 50′s, 60′s, and 70′s, the wardrobes of TV starlets like Clair Huxtable in the 80′s, the sartorial impact of everyone from Salt N Pepa to TLC to Aaliyah in the 90′s and naughts. The truly flustering passage was when she attributed black modern dress to white dress codes, then ventured to say we ‘afro-centrize’ our looks with shells and ‘boubous’. Some of us do, some of us don’t. We are not one monolithic group to be written about like zoo animals.

I just. Can’t.

What do you think?

The full article is here (it’s in French).

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65 Responses to “Elle France Causes Uproar with Article on “Black Fashion Power””

  1. Siyam says:

    Wow. Didn’t she read the Rihanna article and all the uproar it caused?

  2. Caribbelle says:

    And folks say that race isn’t an issue anymore. Anyone can take a look at archives of images and know that its one thing black people have known how to do for a very loooonnng time is look DAMN good. This got my acid kicking up…I can’t!!

  3. Cindy says:

    It never fails the ignorance of others. I totally agree with the statement of no black folks being on staff or cleary this idiot would’ve wrote something different. I work in corporate america and still after 20 years it feels I have to prove myself or justify my non street style. It seems non- black people think black folks have no sense of style or that we are all dress in streetwear, this is simply not the case. We are not mutants who need someone like MO to show us how to dress, we have been dressing like this for years. Thanks to MO and countless others, the world is finally (a little late) taking notice.

  4. Once again another journalist that has NOT done her research. It is shameful that this type of ish is still in the brains of some people these days. Claire I think you said it best “We are not one monolithic group to be written about like zoo animals.” I am over ignorant people.

  5. J_Key says:

    What a bigoted clown

  6. Kitty B. says:

    How long will it be till this wrotier steps down and gives a half ass apology…SMDHHHHH

  7. Est87 says:

    The sad thing I really don’t think she intended to be offensive. She thought what she was writing was true, perhaps ‘complimentary,’ which shows you what kind of society she has grown up in and possibly how little contact she’s had with black people. Oh dear. Sad indeed

  8. Brinks says:

    Do these magazines even care about offending us anymore? First head nigger bitch, now this? And the sad thing is, the writer probably thought she was being nice by saying that we ‘now’ pay attention to how we dress. Dumb broad.

  9. Mik says:

    This must be a sales gimmick. I refuse to believe an educated person in their right mind could write such nonesense, especially because 2011 was full of designers who looked into africa for inspiration. adding race to style is ludicrous…

  10. Erica says:

    I told someone recently that after 40 years of integration the stupid lack of knowledge about blacks by whites is simply ridiculous. There are no excuses like “segregation” to use as a claim for the lack of understanding. The fact is these kinds of articles speaks to the real lack of “integration” into the hegemonic conscience. For them to allow the article as if it were in some way complimentary is an indictment on the magazine as much as the writer. It is an indictment of how little educated people really are about each other.

  11. Nicole says:

    Like you said, this is what happens when they do not have persons of color on their staff. There’s no reason to be mindful or all-inclusive if your office is not diverse. It’s shameful!

  12. People think France is some fantasy place where macaroons fill the sidwalks. France is NOT up to date with race Relations at all. Like you said there needs to be more black staff at these magazines before they go there. It’s crazy to think that ppl where only into fashion after michelle, women dress well in DC on capital hill, and while she might have made Jcrew popular it’s safe to saw that black fashion has beena round for sometime. A LONG time.

  13. Michelle says:

    one word, stupid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. C.T. Thomas says:

    Wait, am I the only black girl who was either running around naked or cloaked in my white approved uniform until the Obamas hit the scene? Damn, now I’m embarrassed.

    Seriously, does Elle France not have a single black woman on staff who could have written an article on the black fashion scene? Or who could have simply read the piece before publishing?

  15. Chianti4rmLA says:

    Claire, please find a way to forward this article to the woman who published that nonsense. She needs to hear these responses.

  16. Patricia says:

    Claire !Thank you for writing this article.
    ELLE magazine’s article is clearly racist and uses pseudo ethnological ideas to reinforce racist stereotypes and stigmatize black women.
    We contact the editor of the magazine. We demand the withdrawal of the article and an apology from the editors.
    Here’s open letter because we want to spread in 2012 this type of article is unworthy, shameful and insulting to all black women.

    Sorry for the translation in english ! and Thank you for your work !!!

    We are subscribers for ELLE magazine and we were shocked by reading an article by Nathalie Dolivo entitled “The muses: a style far from streetwear.”

    In the article, the journalist intends decrypted ELLE fashion trend of black young women represented by black artists such as singers Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Solange Knowles or Inna Modja. If the intention to highlight black women in a magazine, which clearly favors the editorial content for its beauty, Caucasian, is commendable, the text of the writer falls into an accumulation of images and pictures strongly stigmatizing even racist against black women.

    Black women did not wait for the arrival of President Obama and his wife to take an interest in fashion and designers. The title of this “article” clearly presents black women and women finally assimilated and presentable in the eyes of aesthetic canons defined by a white society. Young black women are not the savages finally civilized, educated with “Integrated all code white” as you explain to us how an emancipatory colon.

    You paint a picture, using a neologism that wants sociological-a “black-geoisie” style with a “classic with a twist, with a middle-class ethnic reference (a robe in wax, a shell necklace, a Creole rapper …) reminiscent of the roots. ” Before discussing ethnicity, to revise the history of black women, I ask you to revise your history. The references cited are not “roots” but snapshots produced by the company in no way related to the roots of black communities.

    The style of black women is not primarily represented by the urban music, and played by the popular singers you mention.

    We are not this black woman with a Creole rapper, dressed in streetwear that seems obsessed with you. We have different styles as we have personalities, histories and different references.

    In your article you mention Jon Caramanica, a New York Times, and his article “Pushing the Boundaries of Black Style.” It is interesting that this article highlights the collective American Street Etiquette. This group consists of young black men styles dandies has just created his blog in 2008 to show the media that the style of black and not “black style” has never held limited to streetwear.

    You mention “the 30′s, the Cotton Club movement, costumes and dresses charleston jazz. And in 60 years, the struggle for civil rights, black power, class and unparalleled ineffable of Angela Davis’ glory days as a refinement and elegance lost by black women. These few historical references are not representative of the history of the style of black as a whole. Sappers Congolese to 60 years in Soweto Smartee 2000s, there has not black fashion but a multiplicity of styles that borrow their codes to different cultures and histories, Kyoto geisha retro-futurism of Lloyd Dunn .

    Similarly, we want to tell you the boldness, creativity never asleep, you’ve just reduced to mere objects for exhibition. In the same way you imagine black women as objects, finally visible as having won their spurs mode – integrating white dress codes.

    When Prada and Burberry inspired by the African continent for their summer 2012 collections, you do not decode as “integration of black codes” with “white-geoisie” in times of crisis or as a renaissance in fashion white .

    These styles you describe as sleeping women have always influenced the world they are black or white. Ella Fitzgerald, Claudinette Fouchard, Nina Simone, Diana Ross, Dorothy Dandridge, Maria Hawkins Ellington, Josephine Baker, Ruby Dee Etta James or are part of the black women who did not wait for the codes white fashion, inspiring mode and universal dream fashion, neither black nor white.

    The references in fashion black women are not limited to music as you write. We intellectuals such as Maya Angelou, women politicians such as Coretta Scott King, queens as Amanis Shaktete that inspired fashion. I invite you to do your journalistic work by performing the research necessary to produce a real article on these iconic women.

    Both exhibitions are being held today in Paris. Exposure to the Journal Depart black Exhibitions and exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly. I invite you to go there because they will help you understand the way it is black or white draws its inspiration from various sources and that the garment in all communities and cultures is a symbol of freedom.

    He became the weapon of racism, stigma when he invents meanings pseudo-sociological, historical as you do not have the knowledge of an ethnologist or historian.

    Magazines such as Ebony (1945), Essence (1968) United States or Afrosomething.com (2011), Fashizblack (2007) in France have been created precisely for such articles with racist overtones may never be released in 2012. Freedom to make clothing, fashion, creativity and stop inventing codes that often lead to false caste, a hierarchy of genres and a stigma of being.

    In 2012, she can do better and must do better. There are more subtle and current technologies used to obtain concrete information to make a real tribute to the black icons.

    So please remove this article and detrimental to apologize to all black women who after reading your article have felt insulted because of the stereotypes associated with errors.

    IT can do better and has the means to do so. We stand, therefore candidates to provide the information needed to write a future article that will rehabilitate black women in all their diversity, plurality and originality.

    Patricia Ahanda .

  17. metoo247 says:

    No…this is what happens when we put so much value on European fashion style and labels. They can keep on talking about us and we’re going to keep on taking it…while we spend all of our money to have a Louis Vuitton purse, Prada blouse, Louboutin shoes…

    I’m all for equal treatment and definitely feel that these words are degrading. But at the same time I don’t agree that we should keep on pointing the finger at other people.

  18. sun.kissed says:

    Here we go again…why don’t they get it?

  19. SHAQ NICHOLE says:

    Such an ignorant statement. We did not wait until the Obamas were in office to show/express our fashion sense. She needs to go back to her history books in order to see what she stated is FALSE. Ma’am, do your research first before you print such things!!

  20. Mona L says:

    I dont think this person is totally wrong. If you ever been to Brooklyn or Queens and see how these hoodrats went from Helly Hansen to Hermes you would agree.

    What sucks is that we get generalized by these reporters because of the are more aware of the negative than positive.

  21. Caribbelle says:

    @ Mik I’ve met enough highly educated people who say the most ignorant things. Some folks may be educated but that doesn’t always equate with intelligence…

  22. Marine says:

    for those who understand french, I wrote a post on this subject.
    Thank you for your article…


  23. Rhapsody says:

    I would really appreciate if other races would stop attempting to analyze us and our culture, as if we are some new, interesting species or creation. Fashion is fashion. We are fashinable people, just as anyone else is a fashionable people. Why does it have to be disected because we are black? We don’t go around analyzing other ethnicities…

  24. andie says:

    SMH…The further time progresses the stupider we get…Its really really sad

  25. Rhapsody says:

    And in case anyone was looking for the translation:

    They pop, they shock, they are top … Rihanna with Nicki Minaj, Solange Knowles and Inna Modja, new black muses fascinate designers, fashion editors pack and inspire the street. Decryption.

    By Nathalie Dolivo – The 13/01/2012

    Far from the streetwear style

    In a society obsessed with image, these girls have understood better than anyone the importance of the look. One could even say that for the black community, the
    Clothing has become a political weapon. Jon Caramanica, a journalist with “New York Times,” recently stated in an article about this black renaissance “this style was to return to the black community a source of dignity.” How not to see the effect of the Obamas? In this American led for the first time a black president, the chic has become a plausible option for a community so far pegged to its codes streetwear. First Lady Michelle sets the tone, focusing on cutting-edge brands, transcending the three-hole dresses, jazzy mode revisiting the locker room of Jackie O. In short, the boldness and creativity woke up on a preppy
    new citizenship. As in the 30′s, the Cotton Club movement, costumes and dresses charleston jazz. And in 60 years, the struggle for civil rights, black power, class and unparalleled ineffable of Angela Davis. But if in 2012 the “black-geoisie” has integrated all the codes white, it does not
    literally. It is always a classic twist, with a bourgeois ethnic reference (a robe in wax, shell necklace, a Creole rapper …) reminiscent
    the roots. It shifted, new, desirable, powerful. “At a time of global crisis, there is a real need for fun and creativity back Olivier Cachin. Nicki Minaj on or Janelle Monáe, original and visually strong, fully in line with the spirit of the times difficult and anxiety, as are the antidote. “

  26. Bella Honey says:

    Reading things like this in this day and age is just a shame. SMDH! This shit has got to stop. I Can’t!

  27. clicky_heels says:

    im sorry but i totally understand where the writer is coming from.

    It is not meant as racist. It is only recently (last 5 years) black men have been dressing in ‘country gent’ attire in a fashion context.

    Look at how ghetto is now laced with high end pieces. High end was usually the preserve of the white. Its true. Sorry if you dont like it, things ARE different now. Its not insulting, its the way it WAS.

    I think you are misinterpreting the journalist.

  28. tiredofthebs says:

    @Mona L

    You have a lot to learn, just by stating “If you ever been to Brooklyn or Queens and see how these hoodrats went from Helly Hansen to Hermes you would agree.”

    As an educated woman born, raised, and living in Brooklyn, you have no idea dumb you sound. To state that all women are hoodrats as a result of location, is like saying every women on the upper east side is classy. Trust that many ppl throughout New York are not buying ANYTHING from Hermes, especially in this economy. With that said you are entitled to your opinion, but your opinion just reminds me of the Black person in the room, who always go above and beyond to show that they are not like the negative portrayals of Black ppl on tv.

  29. Brittany says:

    I guess I am failing to see the big deal here.

  30. Sara says:

    Thanks for posting!
    That’s so sad. The saddest thing is that this stupid journalist thought she was doing something positive for us. And that’s what many French people would see in this article. I’m sure that even educated French people wouldn’t see any offense in this. Yes this what we Black women in France live!!! Sad truth.

    Ladies, please spread this article even more! Those ELLE journalists need to learn!

  31. Annett says:

    I think that these people are just scared because their notions of what black people are or should be a being shattered one by one, so they are using the last weapon that they have and that is offending the entire race. It is the fight of a dying horse. Before blogs such as Fashionbombdaily and other numerous amazing African/American blogs which portray the amazing style and versatility of the black style, there were only fashion magazines like Elle, Vogue, etc that portrayed only white people wearing fashionable and high end clothing, with maybe one black person peppered in once every 20 issues or so; but now, oh! We are everywhere, with our colorful dresses and pants and turbans and natural hair piled high on our heads and these same magazines and their audiences are paying attention! Believe me; she knew what she was doing when she wrote that article. So, do not be insulted by someone who is merely feeling threatened and whose stereotypes are slowly crumbling, leaving them with mere insults.

  32. Mona L says:


    I am also from bk, born and raised, and you sound like the reporter generalizing what I said!

    I’m not saying everyone from the boroughs mentioned are hoodrats. However, the hoodrats that reside in these boroughs have depreciated brands like Hermes, Gucci and Prada were once the same people who were wearing Polo, Guess and Tommy Hilfiger.

    Idk what bubble your living in but I see it more often than not. Open your eyes sweet heart.

  33. Natasha says:

    This is simply ridiculous.African Americans have provided significant contribution in every sphere of life.And in 21st century there is no reason to believe that these kind of differences exist between whites and blacks.But Old habits die hard.

  34. Claire says:

    @Clicky_Heels the writer of this article was not referring to black men; she was referring to black women. So even if wearing a suit is now ‘cool’ for men, women have been turning it out in tailored pant suits, chic blouses, look-at-me shoes, and more for a minute. The intimation that this love of luxury brands is new is ridiculous. Even if you reference rap, Lil Kim was rapping about Versace, Moschino, Gucci, Christian Dior, etc in the 90′s (way before 2012), interspersing those brands with ‘streetwear.’
    Not only did the writer fail to do adequate research, she also lumps black people into one homogeneous group. You reference the ‘ghetto.’ Why do you think all black people are ghetto?
    I remember living in Paris (remember guys?), and teaching English at a school. And telling people that I had a bunch of siblings. And the class asked if we lived in a bad neighborhood, because undoubtedly, we had to live on skid row with such a large family. We didn’t and we don’t. The point is to stop trying to say all black people come from the same place. Yes, we have our ghettos, but we also have our affluent suburbs and everywhere in between. And the in between classes have been rocking with preppy, classic dress codes for 20+ years, not just the 4 years the Obamas have been in office. Even what you see on the TV is not the full black experience. We are large and diverse, just as varied and diverse as white people. This article was condescending, and reduced us to one lump. We are much more than that.
    Sorry for the long comment, but as I said: I. Just. Can’t.

  35. Charles Y. says:

    Never be doubted black fashion is unique and colorful. They use their fashion power to represent their own character and usually had huge affect on sociocultural life.

  36. ladyshawann says:

    I think as people we do follow white codes some times. I cant even count how many times black people have seen me enter a room with my big natural hair and looked at me like I had lost my mind. Oh a head wrap, I wont get a hello from a cashier that gave every one a hi ahead of me- she wouldnt want any one to think she is ok with my style of dress.

  37. ladyshawann says:

    Adding to my comment, I think some us follow Hair Codes, we r what inspires designers a lot of times we are ahead of trends, when it comes to dressing.

  38. BbyAngel says:

    Claire, please find a way to forward this article to the woman who published that nonsense. She needs to hear these responses.

  39. Vonmiwi says:

    I read this crap today and these fools don’t have a clue to what our style is or isn’t. They’re still in a state of perpetual denial about who sets trends and who copies what. I’ll admit that I once subscribed to several fashion magazines, but now I don’t because I realized by doing so I was financing my own exclusion. If I want to read them I read them at the library because they aren’t worth the paper they’re prInted on and I can’t support this type of nonsense.

  40. Vonmiwi says:

    Most of have been following the style of Inna Modja, Julia Sarr-Jamois, Janelle Monae, Shala Monroque and even Solange before they even got wind of who the hell they were. What they want us to think now is since they’ve featured them inside of their pages they were the first to validate their existence. We are redefining what and who we are without their approval and it is scary and they are checking out our blogs for content on a regular basis. As much as I hate to admit it a lot of the so called magazines geared at black women here in the states are just catching on to these stylish women. Essence used to highlight to global beauty of the woman of African descent, slowly that is changing with their new E-I-C. I’m validated every day I wake up and see my reflection in my mirror and when I see black women rocking what ever moves them.

  41. tyty says:

    I am so livid and perplexed at what I just read that I cant even begin to type out my thoughts! Style should NEVER be associated with race! I just cant….

  42. Livi says:

    This is why your blog and those alike are so important for us!!! I’ve long ago stopped supporting all these magazines (Elle, Bazar, Vogue) because they’re not written for us and could really care less about us. As much as I love fashion, it pains me to see advertisements and articles that I don’t relate to. If I wanted a picture book, I would pay for that, instead! Those publications pay us no attention UNTIL they say something outrageous and they start back peddling. Overall I’m sick of it and I believe the Black bloggers as well as Black publications need to get together and start a movement!

  43. Livi says:

    I am just so furious! What the hell is a political weapon anyway?! And who beyond FLOTUS would be able to use it? Also, wth does she mean by returning a source of dignity?! How does she know so much about Black America when she lives in France?! LAWD

  44. Anonymous says:

    not surprising at all..she must think that she is progressive for writing such a complimentary article

  45. Thank you for writing this. It is truly sad and frustrating that this editor believes that Black people take their fashion cues from white culture, and then add a touch of Afrocentrism as an afterthought. Please continue to educate the masses that this is not the case. Black people around the world have been inventing trends way become the Obamas entered the White House (Malcolm Harris, Shala Monroque, June Ambrose)! This is such misguided and bad journalism.

  46. Thank you for writing this. It is truly sad and frustrating that this editor believes that Black people take their fashion cues from white culture, and then add a touch of Afrocentrism as an afterthought. Please continue to educate the masses that this is not the case. Black people around the world have been inventing trends way *before* the Obamas entered the White House (Malcolm Harris, Shala Monroque, June Ambrose)! This is such misguided and bad journalism.


    I can do is smh! That article was DISGUSTING to read! I cant believe how blatantly insensible, misinformed, uncultured, and narrow minded that writer is!!!!!!!!

  48. Anonymous says:

    Are you people just ignorant? I have witnessed this fashion difference all my life! Black people have ALWAYS had the coolest ‘sense of fashion’. Since I was a child I have envied the black folks posession of awesome clothes. I wore donated clothes most of my young life. I longed for clothes like ‘they’ wore.

    tattered ‘Salvation Army’

  49. Anonymous says:

    The French are racist. There you have it. In black and white. I will never wear fashion from French houses. Too bad, cos I am black and I use a lot of money on clothes.

  50. Fiacha says:

    I write about zoo animals and got very offended by your comment.

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