The ’90s was a time when being Black was kind of cool: There were a slew of popular Black TV shows, plenty of Black movies that hit the scene, rap even earned its spot as a respected art form, and we elected our first “Black” president with Bill Clinton! Yet with all of the good vibes that were flowing our way as a people, there was one snag that caused quite a stir. Top clothing designer like Liz Claiborne (pictured) appeared on the now-defunct Oprah Winfrey Show in 1991 and allegedly made a pearl-clutching statement about Black women that would cause the rumor and gossip mill to go in to overdrive.
On the show, Claiborne supposedly said that she did not make clothes for Black women because they simply could not wear the same sizes as White women and that she did not like the idea of making clothes for Blacks.
The conspiracy theory about Claiborne hit the Black community like wildfire, and suddenly, the clothing icon’s fashions were mince meat. Adding fuel to the alleged incendiary comments made by Claiborne was “Do the Right Thing” filmmaker Spike Lee (pictured below right). The director became a parrot of sorts and took the conspiracy theory about Claiborne to a code red level.
In an Esquire magazine interview, Lee urged the Black community to boycott Claiborne’s company in protest of her alleged inflammatory and cutting remarks that were made on Winfrey’s show. He went on to state:
“Last week, Oprah Winfrey had Liz Claiborne on the show. I guess she wears Liz Claiborne’s clothes all the time. Claiborne got on and said she didn’t make clothes for black people to wear. Oprah stopped the show and told her to get her ass off the set.
How you gonna get on Oprah’s show and say you don’t make clothes for Black women? It definitely happened. Get the tape. Every Black woman in America needs to go to her closet, throw that shit out, and never buy another stitch of clothes from Liz Claiborne.
Lee’s revolutionary stand against Claiborne was one that should have appeared in one of his movies, because the Claiborne statements that incited many in the community to rise up against her were all false!
Claiborne never appeared on Oprah’s talk show and was not even associated with her clothing company in 1991.
The designer had retired from the day-to-day activities of her company in 1989.
Even still, you can find those in our community who continue to give Claiborne’s products the side eye whenever they visit their local mall.
Urban legend indeed!