First Lady Michelle Obama in Prague, Czech Republic yesterday.
(Image Courtesy of Huffington Post)
Though our First Lady has been championed for being a style icon in the recessionista age for bolstering up-and-coming designers such as Jason Wu, Thakoon Panichgul, and Maria Pinto, she recently elicited the ire of luxury designers such as Oscar De La Renta and Vera Wang. De La Renta, in particular, criticized Mrs. Obama for “[going] in one direction only” by ignoring the established designers and not putting out the “right message at this particular point”.
Now, I could easily counter that by praising our First Lady’s insistence in featuring rising American designers while being sensitive to our currently dreadful economic climate by wearing mid-range pieces from J. Crew and H & M, but that would just be beating a dead horse. Quite frankly, I’d rather point out the hollow irony of said luxury designers who have ignored or marginalized black women for years. From their intermittent usage of black models on the catwalk to their disregard for black female clientele who do not fit into the standard gamine shape, I find it sardonic that they’re up in arms about Mrs. Obama’s lack of haste in wearing their clothes. Moreover, the fact that said established designers weren’t at all concerned about marketing to black women during sunnier times, only to essentially beg our First Lady to bail them out of this recession reeks of self-righteous opportunism.
However, I can’t quite gloat at this reversal of fortune, for the fact remains that the black woman as a client of the fashion industry has yet to be regarded with the same amount of regard as her non-black counterparts in spite of her buying power. As someone who has been involved in this industry for almost nine years, the sting of that bitter truth is still fresh. And while we as Americans have proven to be open to the reality of having a man of color as our president with his urbane and intelligent black First Lady by his side, we have a long way to go when it comes to appreciating black women as a true marketable and consumer force in society. So, on a parting note, I, as an American consumer and a black woman, challenge Mr. De La Renta and company to prove their inclusivity “at this particular point”. Do show us that you’re just as open to designing for all women of all races and all classes as Tracy Reese and Narciso Rodriguez have proven time and time again.
After all, if we can successfully elect change for our country, surely, you all are up to the task.