As the First Lady of the United States prepares to exit the White House and make way for the Trumps, we take a moment to remember the times Michelle Obama embraced some of Africa’s leading designers.
Ever-poised and elegant, Michelle Obama has become somewhat of a fashion icon, a title she has earned and maintained since her husband, Barack Obama, took office in 2009. Decked out in outfits by high and low-end brands, the First Lady helped to establish the careers of lessor-known designers (remember Jason Wu with his 2008 ivory, silk chiffon inauguration gown), while bolstering the sales of department store brands such as J. Crew and Gap.
The last time people were so enthralled by what a First Lady was wearing was back in the 60’s, during John F.Kennedy’s short-lived reign as the president of the United States. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who later became affectionately known as Jackie O, and to whom Michelle is often compared, emerged as a fashion influencer among the ladies who lunched. Michelle on the other hand, was equally as elegant and stylistically influential, though her fashion flair never overshadowed her strong voice and fierce political stance.
With her bold prints and bright colours, in a political world saturated in grayscale hues, Michelle Obama chose to forgo two-piece suits for more feminine and revealing yet tasteful ensembles, a choice that was initially regarded as daring for a woman of her stature. Her love of such fearless prints and tones would inevitably lead her to African designers, from whom she would source outfits for her public engagements, quickly making her a proponent of African fashion.
Michelle Obama during the taping of MTV Base meets Michelle Obama, close-up credit Leeroy Jason, sourced from www.ameyawdebrah.com
One African designer who has seen his outfits donned by the First Lady on more than occasion is the Nigerian, London-based designer, Duro Olowu. Olowu, who is perhaps one of the most popular designers to have come out of the continent, with his constant delivery of successful collections . Olowu’s relationship with the First Lady apparently goes beyond the sartorial, having been enlisted by Michelle, along with other designers, to decorate the White House for Christmas, in 2015. (Check out his Spring 2017 collection).
Michelle Obama in Duro Olowu, sourced from okayafrica.com
Other notable brands Michelle Obama has so elegantly worn include Maki Oh, Mimi Plange, ASOS Africa, and Osei Duro. Each of these brands have determinedly crossed the African border with collections that have demanded the attention of many notable celebrities and cultural figures.
Michelle Obama in Mimi Plange, sourced from okayafrica.com
Michelle Obama in ASOS Africa, sourced from okayafrica.com
Never has a power-couple appealed to people across such a wide demographic spectrum as the Obama’s. For Michelle, her dress sense would be seen mimicked by housewives, working women and college graduates who sought out her outfits from many of the department stores Michelle patronised, thus emphasizing the democratic nature of fashion.
Michelle Obama in Maki Oh, sourced from africanspotlight.com
As we bid farewell to the First Lady, we offer up a few other designers that we thought we’d love to see FLOTUS wearing as she continues into the next chapter of her social and political crusades across the world.
Other African designers we think Michelle Obama should wear;
Thula Sindi, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg, sourced from w24.co.za
Adama Paris, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg 2016
David Tlale, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg 2016
Jewel by Lisa
Lisa Folawiyo, Heineken Lagos Fashion Design Week 2016, sourced from bellanaija.com
Kisua’s Summer 2016 Sahara Collection, sourced from kisua.com