Remember how when Michelle Obama stepped out at the inaugural balls in Jason Wu, all the pundits were like, "Apparently she's wearing Jason Wu. And that's the most you'll ever hear me say about fashion." Well Wolf Blitzer et al are still talking about it, because they've picked up on the story WWD broke last week about the Black Artists Association being upset with Michelle Obama for not wearing clothes by black designers at the inaugural festivities. BAA co-founder Amnau Eele cited Kevan Hall, b. michael, and Stephen Burrows as designers Michelle could have worn. After Eele's comments were printed, b. michael responded with a statement:
“I personally believe it is an unfair expectation to place on the First Lady. Fashion is subjective and a matter of personal choice.
“As a designer of color, I would encourage the fashion industry, editors and media to lead the way and be more inclusive. True change in America is going to be a collective effort... As an American designer, I am excited that Mrs. Obama, in her role as the First Lady, will heighten the awareness of American style, which resonates into business and jobs in the fashion industry. I applaud Mrs. Obama for her style and her choices. Most of all for wearing what really matters: dignity and grace.”
Eele clarifies in WWD today that she was not speaking on behalf of the designers she mentioned, but simply wanted to bring the subject to light. Well, she's received death threats as a consequence. Eele told WWD:
“B. Michael has a right to issue a statement. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s an excellent designer and he deserves to be considered to dress the First Lady, whether he stands with BAA or not. We don’t represent designers, we represent painters. We spoke up for black designers because we felt it was the right thing to do.”
As b. michael noted in his statement, her sensitivity to the issue is understandable. The death threats are extreme, no doubt. However, given that her organization represents painters, we feel like she's stepping on these designers' toes. We're not sure if b. michael would say so, considering the extremely gracious nature of his statement, but would he have sent it out if she wasn't? The CFDA doesn't comment on Michelle's choice of White House decorator and then pass judgment on her.
Eele will be in town next month for a career conference she's organizing in New York for young African-American designers and students.This issue will be used to jump-start discussion.
UNITED FRONT [WWD]