I had a visceral reaction to this report from the Chicago Sun Times that the the co-founder of the Black Artists Association, Amnau Eele, was miffed at First Lady Michelle Obama for not wearing a black designer’s creations for the inauguration. She said:
“It’s fine and good if you want to be all ‘Kumbaya’ and ‘We are the World’ by representing all different countries,” Eele is quoted as saying at wwd.com, the magazine’s Web site. “But if you are going to have Isabel Toledo do the inauguration dress, and Jason Wu do the evening gown, why not have Kevan Hall, B Michael, Stephen Burrows or any of the other black designers do something, too?”
This is another instance where the Obama’s are held to a higher standard when it comes to, well, just about everything. During the weeks President Obama was assembling his cabinet, there were cries that his choices did not include enough women and minorities. When the Obamas were shopping schools for their daughters, there was a call and, in some cases, an expectation for them to enroll Sasha and Malia in DC public schools. Launching the great search for a family dog was met with more calls to choose a shelter dog. The list goes on. I don’t take objection to the public expecting the first family to be a model for the country. The tone and underlying suppostions of Ms. Eele’s comments is what I take objection to.
Eele assumes that the First Lady’s designer choices stemmed not from the merit of the fashions but the national origin of said designers. For her this was Michelle being all ‘Kumbaya’ and ‘We are the world.’ Michelle Obama does not have an obligation to choose a black designer just because she is black or black designers are few. Did the designers Eele suggested send samples to Michelle? According to reports, the First Lady requested pieces from many designers and didn’t make the final selection until inauguration day.
These pressures were not put on previous First Ladies. They were free to choose designers without these sorts of requirements. I say leave the Flotus and her deigner picks alone. Black designers should continue vying for her attention in hopes that she will pick their frocks, not because the designer is a minority, but because their designs match her style.