Elle France's Nathalie Dolivo gets "black style" all wrong.




Perhaps we can blame it on translation, naïveté, or a lack of black folks on staff, but a recent Elle France fashion blog post aimed at celebrating “Black Fashion Power” went incredibly wrong.

The article, which featured Solonge Knowles and Janelle Monae, aimed to tout a growing “trend” in redefining black style: ditching “street” style and embracing “white codes.”

Due solely to the influence of the Obama, Nathalie Dolivo claims black people are ditching our Fubu and Pelle Pelle’s, for some of haute couture’s finest. She writes,  “For the first time, the chic has become a plausible option for a community so far pegged [only] to its streetwear codes.”

If you thought that was bad,  Dolivo’s assumptions about how we choose to incorporate a plethora of influences into our style is even worse. She’s labeled stylish black folks as the “black-geosie,” a take on “bourgeoisie” ( because clearly we can’t be upper class either?).

Dolivo writes, “But if in 2012 the “black-geoisie” has integrated all the white codes [of fashion], they [do so not] literally. [There] is always a classic twist, with a bourgeois ethnic reference (a batik-printed turban/robe, a shell necklace, a ‘créole de rappeur’) reminiscent [of] the roots. It [has] shifted, [it is] new, desirable, powerful.”

So…black women are copying their white counterparts style rules, only we add “shells” and “turbans” that harken back to…out “roots”?


Luckily, many of the readers over on the Elle France blog have already ripped Dolivo to shreds for her misguided and offensive article.

One reader found Dolivo’s fashion critique ironic in light of France’s diversity: “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?”

While another called the article, “GROTESQUE, SHAMEFUL, and USELESS,” Wondering, “White dress codes? Did I really read white dress codes..?”

Although I’m no longer surprised by these sorts articles, I find them extremely disheartening and problematic. After years of contributions to the fashion world, it’s sad that many STILL cling to such tired, stereotypical notions of black people.

What do you think? Why can’t these fashion mags either get it right or stop discussing “black style”? 

*Via The Fashion Bomb Daily & NY Magazine

  • amarie

    I work in the “industry” and you wouldn’t believe the things I hear. Ignorance is alive and well in 2012.

  • iQgraphics

    So long as we are excluded from the closed door meetings that take place before they go to press, this will continue.

    Perhaps they don’t receive copies of that Dutch mag.

    They write an editorial about black people and there are no black people involved with the production. I expect nothing but what they deliver.

  • girlformerlyknownasgrace

    I don’t even know what to make of this.

  • CaliDreaming86 (CD86)

    They can’t ‘get it right’ if they aren’t dealing directly with the people who they are writing about.

  • apple

    not be racist..lol
    why couldn’t you just write about the fashion/style of janelle monae (or anyone nonwhite for that matter) and not what color she is..like what the fuck does it gotta do with anything?

  • sira20

    If you don’t live in France, you can find this country fabulous Because you don’t know reality.
    In France, if you are black,white people think that you are stupide. Even if you to college, you don’t get job and if you get job, they don’t give you an apartment even if you can pay.
    Discrimination is so terrible in France, you can find many french black people in UK or USA;

  • Robbie

    Coming from Elle France I am very shocked to read this. When I first read the article, I could not believe it. Elle France is well known for its editorial content and to showcase people of color and great articles with stories related to black women. I like it better than Elle US because I think that the editorial content is better, and now this.

    Since when we need celebrities like Solange, Nicky Minaj, Rihanna and Miss O to tell me/us how to dress? I don’t even wear street clothes because it is not my style. I cannot believe that this article was approved and published. I am glad to see that many of my fellow French black girls are letting their voice heard. I will most def be following this story and thopefully an appology will follow. My friens and I will most likely be talking about this. Black style was always something that I grew up with. I have always seen beautifully dressed black French women around me including my mother and my friends. I am very dissapointed by it.

  • haffie

    Mme Nathalie Dolivo should be fired for a racist view. I hated the article. As a French black woman i hate street style, I am more vintage from the 50s to the 80s style, so when I hear dumb things like that Iam disgusted. Black women have so much class and style I bet Ms Dolivo is jealous of us maybe deep down inside she just wished that she could walk in our shoes. Here we go again, another white woman who is uncomfortable in her skin so to make up for it she has to attack us just to get some recognition. Sad, sad and sad. Ms Dolivo you gotta go…. My mom is my role model and she sure knows how to dress and she’s black so I don’t know wher Mme dolivo ideas came from.

  • http://thejunqui.com Deva

    This is so similar to what Vogue Italia posted in August regarding “Slave Earrings”…as sad and upsetting as this is, things like this will unfortunately continue.

  • ChezCerise

    Why’d they even bring up FUBU? I havent seen FUBU since I was in JH!!!!

  • Kinakina

    Thanks for spreading! So sad to see such things written by a so-called journalist in 2012. I’m not surprised that Elle released such an article. I seriously doubt that this Dolivo will be fired. In other places, it may have happened but not in France.

    The saddest thing is that she thought she was doing something flattering for us, Black women.
    This article unfortunately reflects the vision of the French society towards Black people: a colonialist view of us, poor little n**gers who need to be taught and shown what is good (those famous” white codes”) and what isn’t.
    I’m sure that if this article was to be read by White French people, many wouldn’t see any harm in it. Colorblindness, ignorance and unconsciouss racism have led us to that situation here in France. “Liberty, egality, fraternity” as they say…

  • MyMyMy

    I have a friend who interned with elle will still an undergrad and after a year of flyinh to and from school to new york, pulling clothing samples, and renting an apartment before she was even 21 she declined the position for much of the same reasons :/ It really sucks I thought we were getting somewhere with Vogue Black, but same ol same ol I guess.

  • MyMyMy


  • Kacey

    Again, to the white media trying to study us, define us, “compliment” us: JUST LEAVE US ALONE!!!

  • Leath

    u’re right I am a black french girl and I want to move to america for all those reasons

    France is racist and hypocrite !

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    Her article is a mess.com. It is so beyond ridiculous, I cannot even get offended.

  • Tonton Michel

    Mon Dieu, ce n’est pas possible! The French engaging in a racial faux pas after being so passionately defended in a post by their citizens? No madame , obviously something was lost in translation.

  • Caramel

    I have to agree with Kacey. You do not understand us or our style so leave us alone and let us articulate it for you!!!! Ask a question and do research next time!!!!!!!!! Does anyone practice real journalism anymore!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  • Robbie

    @Tonton Michel Just because one editor wrote a tasteless article about black fashion does not mean everyone thinks like her. I will defend France whenever I can but I also know that we are not a perfect society. I totally disagree with this lady and her views and most of my fellow french people are also upset over this article are are letting Elle France know about it. N’ accusez pas tt un pays et ses habitants base sur l ‘opinion d’ une personne ou un groupe de personnes. Merci.

  • Tonton Michel


    You can defend France all you want but this aint just one person or group acting up, it is a thought process held by the people in position of power and influence who deny that there is a problem while they legislate the head scarfs off of Muslim women and watch black youth riot in the streets. Which wouldn’t be a problem if they were not so quick to point out others flaws.

  • http://blackonpurpose.blogspot.com/ gryph

    hey where’s proudinfrance to tell us how this isn’t really happening? lol.

    the french lie about racism like everyone else. it was l’oreal paris that put beyonce in black face, right? joesphine baker. saarjie baartman. racism is is built in with an automatic denial feature called ‘color-blindness’.

    the simple reality is france – after experiencing some serious race and religious problems – is doing almost all that it can to assimilate its minorities. sarkozy said directly: ‘multiculturalism isn’t working; the africans and the muslims are going to have to be french’. ‘color-blindness’, mixing, and idealism is always a part of such a process as is co-opting and steering the aspirational ‘classes’. it’d wise for americans to watch what is happening in france race wise and compare it to what’s happening in your country. england too.

    any way, black americans have always had a special place in french popular culture. this article says to aspiring coloreds: “look even black in america are getting their act together”; and, it exerts a lot of pressure on those who look across the pond to afro-ams for cues. almost like a model minority thing.

    any how way to kick those bougie french girls in the teeth, britini!

    and we haven’t forgiven those cheese and croissant eaters for bending over to hitler in WWII!!

  • S.

    African American female here

    Please pardon my ignorance here but is this article really that appalling (i must be numb to the insults by now because i was expecting it to be on the level of that Dutch ‘Rihanna’ article)?

    At worst, the editor seems INCREDIBLY out of touch with reality (this article is about 500 years too late?) and a complete incompetent writer (even a simple Wikipedia research about Janelle Monae would have told this editor that she’s been styling herself in “white codes” long before America even knew who Barack Obama was).

    Isn’t their (White editors of White fashion magazines) level of ignorance known when it comes to “us” by now? Isn’t this a fool me once… kinda thing?

    “We’re” the ones who buy *their* magazines. “We’re” the ones that want to assimilate into *their* fashion world. “We’re” who give them so much (of our) money, credibility and thus, power.

    No, it’s not too much to ask for to be considered human beings but we should know by now that that’s not how elite White people operate so when are we gonna get a freakin’ clue???

  • kissa


  • http://thedaughterofafrika.blogspot.com/ African Mami

    That right there is what I call a typical village girl response!

  • fuchsia

    I agree with you 100% This article did not surprise me. It was indeed racist, but when are elite white people, especially the French elite, not racist?

    Just another case of the blind leading the blind. They don’t get it, and until they have a Black person approving media regarding Black women they never will.

  • QoNew


    On the contrary… so long as we put so much stock into what they think and say about us there will continue to be these monumental fails. Why do we stomp our feet when we arent on the cover of these magazines? Oh right.. their acceptance is so dam important to us. Our own magazines, our own designers and writers just dont carry the same weight as these folks. We havent made it until they have give us a place at their table.

    Let them write and say what they want. We should have our own and be proud.

  • QoNew


    “As a French black woman i hate street style…”

    So, the hell, what. Who are you to diss street style? Because of its association with the urban, black and poor? We have influenced the world with nothing. I see our street style on children in every country in the world.

    “I am more vintage from the 50s to the 80s style…”

    Big deal. So you buy a bunch of scabie infested clothes from the charity shop. Youre so cool.

  • QoNew

    Its 2012 and black women need to decide what we want. Or maybe we dont need to decide what we want because we arent all the same and dont want the same things. But then we are the same because we are all black and female and experience racism and sexism. Also the media needs to stop talking about us but the media is always ignoring us. We need to use our own voice to state our opinions but we are sick of being excluded from these magazines…and on and on and on.

    Seriously we ask for it. We want to be in everyone’s mouth, everyone’s thought, until they say or think something we dont like. Then we want everyone to shut up. How about we stop begging then getting mad about the crumbs we get?

  • QoNew

    Ladies, please remember that when something DOESNT belong to us, we cant dictate the terms and conditions.

  • QoNew


    Why should they “get it?” Its their magazine. When you own and are in charge you dont have to “get” anything but your bottom line. When are black women going to “get it?” When are we going to get that this isnt our magazine, they dont own us anything? We have the means to create our own voice in the fashion world. Unfortunately if we dont get their approval, anything we have or have done means nothing to us. SMH.

  • The Taker (yeah I rep them GIANTS)

    I agree. I hate when “other” people try to speak for us. All they end up doing most of the times is writing something ignorant such as the presented article.

  • Joan

    QoNew, I agree! Too much of what we do is a reaction to what someone says. We are always reacting. It’s not like these ignorant opinions of us are new. The bottom line is that they don’t know us, they are not obligated to appease us and they have the luxury of pretending that we do not exist. It is what it is. It’s 2012 and too many of us still sit on our hands waiting for them to grace us with their opinions…THAT is a much bigger problem than any of the insulting things that are said. I look forward to the day when more of us are proactive rather than reactive. Stop looking back and move forward, setting our own standards. Create our own forums, support our own authorities in fashion, create our own fashion, etc. Reacting is a much easier way to go. It’s a lot harder to actually do something without following preset guidelines. Too many of us don’t realize and utilize our own power.

  • Marv

    Too much nitpicking but I guess you have to write about something….

  • iQgraphics

    Don’t understand how your response to my post is contrary. We are saying the same thing.
    If Elle France wanted blacks to be involved with this editorial, I’m certain they would have asked for some.
    They didn’t want it hence my comment:
    They write an editorial about black people and there are no black people involved with the production. I expect nothing but what they deliver.

    You should always be concerned how people perceive you. That’s just common sense. It’s how you avoid danger. And in being concerned, some are going to be reactive, hence this piece. I expect nothing but what they deliver.

  • Amy

    Elle’s a magazine that caters to white women just like Vogue. Everytime they talk about black women, it has to be a special edition. These people are ignorant and they will never get black women. That’s why I don’t read them

  • Girl

    Have the coony African French commented to defend their masters yet? Im sure they will

  • haffie

    @ girl yes we will, I know i will life in france is good but we will always have to re-educate some morons. Vive “The Artist “for its 10 oscars nomination. Love you France no matter the problems….lets win the oscar and show what we French do….And no to racism from either side.

  • http://bijoubluerose.blogspot.com Gigi Richardson

    @Leath, when you come to USA, remember the words of poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992) “The master will never give you the tools to dismantle his house.”

  • nanou

    Thank you for speaking about it. Now you all can see my country, “France Pays des droits de l’homme” (country of human rights). Please girls share, share and share again. People need to know that France is really not paradise for Black people (to find a job, to rent a flat, to get a promotion…).
    I don’t need to be proud of being a black woman, is just the way i am BUT i love colour, my culture, my hair, my lips… I will never apologize to be who I am. Sorry for them

  • nanou

    @sira20 You must be French, you know the truth ! tmtc

  • Blasé

    ah but the French! if it ain’t French Vogue it’s Elle France…

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