Fashion & Racism: When Does a ‘Statement’ Go Beyond Just Style?

Beyonce raises eyebrows and ire with All-Star weekend ensemble

(Image: Twitter)

Beyonce has been known to set more than a style trend or two, being a multiplatinum-selling queen of empowerment for fans worldwide and a bankable brand with influence and clout for the masses.

But what happens when star-studded style meets racial undertones? The fashion industry has been under scrutiny for decades about its lack of diversity on the catwalk and in magazine pages, as well as racial controversy related to consumers and employees.

Beyonce’s latest All-Star weekend fashion pick joins that touchy discussion, with some style watchers giving a Scooter LaForge trench coat she wore during the festivities more than a side eye. The coat, which retails for $320, features a custom-painted depiction of a smiling clown that some are describing as the often controversial, black-face character Sambo.

Beyonce…should not have been wearing a sambo trench coat…she rarely makes missteps like this. dont let it happen again

— Triple Aunt Andre (@OhEmmeG) February 17, 2015

Guess #Beyonce can do no wrong. Even promoting a Sambo trench coat at the #AllStarGame mid-#BHM #KNOWyourHISTORY #GM

— IG: @kwintell_wright (@Kwintell_Wright) February 17, 2015

On, a leading site that features African American trendsetters, industry leaders and innovators, reactions ranged from calling the coat “ugly and inappropriate” to referring to it as “racist crap.”

LaForge, an artist from New Mexico, tweeted the star thanking her for wearing his creation:

This isn’t the first time fashion has been at the center of racial controversy. Early last year, German art and fashion magazine Garage faced backlash after publishing a photo of its white editor in chief sitting on a black woman’s body as a chair. High-end retailer Barneys faced lawsuits after accusations of racial profiling of black shoppers, and were made to shell out more than $500,000 in damages. Vogue magazine was among luxe magazines featuring models in black face in 2013. Designer Peggy Noland faced staunch criticism for a dress she designed featuring a topless Oprah Winfrey. All of these moments have led many to question how much is too much when it comes to the relationship between race, discrimination, art and fashion. Is it all fashion faux pas or laissez faire haute couture? Is it even that serious?

What are your thoughts? Are racial undertones ever OK for the sake of fashion or art? Follow @BlackEnterprise and #Soundoff with your opinion, or leave a comment below.

  • BigSeannY

    Beyonce is a trendsetter,hands down

    • cw

      Sambo was a trendsetter as well. Something they have in common.

  • Sambo

    I absolutely love this trench.
    Sambo or not!

    • cw


  • solargeknowles

    While it does invoke samba. It’s clearly just a clown mouth. Thats even blue eyes.

    • cw

      google image sambo solarge. Don’t let your eyes trick your brain, let it work the other way around like its supposed to.

  • V

    The article of clothing is “art”. And art is subjective. Beyoncé wearing that coat could be as simple as 1) someone else styled her 2) she liked it 3) she was not thinking about the character’s origin 4) she’s making her own statement. Just like she and other black artists brought awareness to black lives at the Grammy’s. Maybe this is a strategic way to start conversations and bring awareness to the often overlooked parts of black history.. or not.

    • cw

      Sambo is not black history, it was created by whites. Are you really this dumb or just really really young?

      • V

        Neither. Thank you. I’m not “really this dumb” or “really really young.” I’m actually very intelligent. Not only do I know the history of Sambo, but I know the definition of ‘history’.

        History is defined as acts, ideas, or events that will or can shape the course of the future; immediate but significant happenings:
        Sambo is an inaccurate and derogatory depiction of black people, “created by whites”; but, AFFECTED black people and the perception of black people. Just because it was “created by whites” does NOT make it any less part of black history. To think that black history is only relevant if, and only if, black people “created” something is less than smart.
        Black people did not “create” slavery in America or segregation. But, according to your definition, it’s “not black history [because] it was created by whites”.
        But, what do I know… because I’m apparently too young and dumb (which is also another uneducated, one-sided conclusion you’ve drawn) to understand “history”.
        Carry on.

  • not a sellout

    House niggas giving her a pass in these comments. Everything clearly racist against blks is art. Foh hold her ass responsible for something

    • Simon

      Your point is lost amongst the poor grammar and dreadful language. Try again without the profanity like a mature adult.

  • BigSeannY

    Beyonce is a trendsetter,plain and simple

  • hotttttmesss

    Look it’s Jane Toussaunt In a ugly coat

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