VOGUE Corrals Designers For Obama

RunwaytowinIn the last election, American fashion designers made some very visible demonstrations for support for then candidate Barack Obama, and now that it has come time to re-elect him (in case you hadn't noticed) they are joining forces and escalating their efforts. A group of 22 designers including Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch, Diane von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez, Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzarra, Rag & Bone, Rachel Roy and Tracy Reece have formed Runway To Win and will launch an e-commerce site this Thursday that will offer merchandise such as t-shirts, tote bags, wristlets and scarves whose proceeds will support the President's re-election campaign. The effort is based on a previous initiative called "Runway To Change" that supported the 2008 Obama campaign.

And who is behind all this political activity on Seventh Avenue? Oh, come on, you know who it is. It's Vogue editor-in-chief and Dark Mistress of all Fashion World activity, Anna Wintour. The Iron Lady of the industry has been a longtime Obama Supporter, and WWD has identified her as one of an elite group of fundraising "bundlers" who regularly raise in excess of $500,000 for the Obama 2012 campaign. Wintour has attracted much attention with her five-figure-a-head receptions, and will co-host a fundraising event next month with actress Scarlett Johansen to promote the program, but rounding up designers to participate was not without its stumbling blocks. WWD reports that LVMH, which controls so many fashion labels including Marc Jacobs and Donna Karan, was skittish of alienating customers by politicizing its brands and had initially vetoed any of its designers' involvement in "Runway To Win". WWD, citing unnamed sources, reported that Marc Jacobs chose to participate anyway after pressure from Vogue. Donna Karan, who has supported Obama in the past, is not included in the initiative this time around. Whether that says something about Karan's stand in the current pecking order or an unlikely power struggle between Wintour and LVMH is something gossips can debate during a slow week in fashion.


Critical To Global Edition

IKRAM-slide-2DS4-articleLarge-v2Today's Thursday Styles switches up the format a bit by morphing its longstanding Critical Shopper column into the "Global Shopper". We're not sure if Chicago qualifies as all that far flung when you put it in the context of the entire planet, but, it's a start.

Alexandra Jacobs takes on the newly upgraded version of the Windy City's IKRAM, a well-regarded, independent boutique that got an invaluable prestige infusion when it was revealed that the store's owner was the mastermind behind First Lady Michelle Obama's soigné style. She calls the store "thoroughly glorious", and yet she sometimes can't seem to wrap her mind around some of its more adventurous offerings. To better understand, she enlists the assistance of the tireless Felicia whom she proceeds to torture mercilessly by trying on an abundance of staggeringly expensive merchandise with no intention of purchasing anything.

Eventually, she manages to get out of there with only a pair of $40 Sonia Rykiel socks in her bag but vowing to return when her ship comes in. We just hope she doesn't expect Felicia to be too happy to see her face again.

Global Shopper: Helped by an Obama Stimulus By Alexandra Jacobs (NYTimes)
IKRAM 15 East Huron Street, Chicago

The First Lady's Favor Fails:

Maria Pinto Folds

The Michelle Obama Effect has given many designers like Thakoon, Maria Cornejo and even Narciso Rodriguez a noticeable lift in sales and visibility -and in some cases, like that of Jason Wu, created an extraordinary boost- but unfortunately, it has not been enough to keep one of the First Lady's favorites, Maria Pinto, in business. Pinto announced this week that she would be closing her Chicago boutique, wholesale business and design studios for the time being. Even though she had a well received presentation at last September's Fashion Week, the core fashion press never quite took to her classically styled dresses in the same way that they began celebrating the younger designers like Thakoon and Wu. Still, Pinto, identified as a favorite of Mrs. Obama when she was still the wife of the Democratic nominee, continued to make her signature jewel toned sheath dresses for the First Lady, who wore them regularly.
It's possible that working from Chicago made it harder for the designer to build relationships with New York based retailers and press, but WWD speculates that part of the problem may be the shrinking number of independent specialty boutiques that would make up Pinto's natural client base, and the difficulty that many of those who remain may be having paying their bills on time.
Maria Pinto Shutters Businesses (WWD)

Awards News:

CFDA Does Everything Possible
To Get Michelle Obama
To Come To A Fashion Event

Vogue_cover_michelle_obama Never say they don't know a good thing when they see it.
As if nominating her favored designers for their annual awards is not enough, the Council of Fashion Designers of America has named First Lady Michelle Obama the recipient of the Board of Directors Special Tribute for the attention she has drawn to the fashion industry.
Additionally, Thakoon Panichgul and Jason Wu, two designers who have created clothes for her, have been nominated along with Alexander Wang for the Swarovski Award for Womenswear which recognizes emerging talent. Narciso Rodriguez, another Obama favorite has been nominated for Womenswear designer of the year along with Marc Jacobs and Kate and Laura Mulleavy for Rodarte. We're surprised they didn't go ahead and nominate her unofficial stylist Ikram Goldman for a special retailer award, but perhaps that would have been too heavy handed even for this crowd (save it for next year). Jacobs is also nominated for Accessory Designer of the Year along with Vera Wang and Proenza Schouler's Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez, as well as the already named recipient of the International Award for Louis Vuitton, ensuring that he will walk away with at least one trophy on June 15th.
Of course, under any other circumstances, Marc would probably be the central figure of the evening what with the possibility of winning three awards and all, but this year, he will have to defer to the First Lady, around whom the fashion industry has rallied after one of its worst seasons ever at retail. Assuming she appears to accept her award, it may actually be the first time many of these designers will have been able to meet their most famous client. Given Mrs. Obama's magical ability to attract customers to whatever she happens to wear at her appearances, we don't think any designer will mind ceding her some attention.
CFDA Announces Nominees for 2009 Awards (WWD)

A full list of CFDA nominees after the jump

Continue reading "Awards News:

CFDA Does Everything Possible
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To Come To A Fashion Event
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Dressing The First Lady:

The Times Puts The Spotlight
On Chicago's Ikram

12ikram-500Most retailers will be attending Fashion Week facing challenges to choose the merchandise that will keep their stores afloat until customers feel like shopping in force again. One, in particular, however, will be coming in a new position strength. Chicago's Ikram Goldman, owner of the boutique that shares her given name, has been operating as First Lady Michelle Obama's fashion adviser and a clearinghouse for her wardrobe, commissioning designers to create special items, most of whom also do business her store. In today's Thursday Styles, Cathy Horyn and Eric Wilson team up to paint as detailed a picture as they can of how Ms. Goldman operates, in spite of the fact that she is still not talking to the press, and doesn't look like she will anytime soon.
Does the intense attention attracted by Mrs. Obama's wardrobe create a conflict of interest for Ms. Goldman, allowing her to use the White House as a marketing tool for the brands she sells? Well, assisting in the First Lady's wardrobe choices is not exactly like having a defense contract, but some are wondering if Ikram's participation is limiting Mrs. Obama's options, though the store has asked for clothing from other designers like Tracy Reese, whose label it does not normally carry. It's unusual that Mrs. Obama wouldn't want to shop in the showrooms of New York as most of her predecessors have (usually at wholesale cost). This is certainly a more convoluted way of managing a wardrobe, and it also has the effect, intentionally or not, of keeping designers at arm's length from the White House. We're not sure if the Inaugural gown designer and overnight fashion superstar Jason Wu has even met Mrs. Obama yet. He certainly hadn't before he made the now famous dress.
It will be interesting to see of the First Lady continues this complex process of dressing herself going forward, but one thing is for sure. Given Mrs. Obama's new fashion influence, we are willing to bet that Ikram Goldman's presence at runway show next week will be almost as coveted as that of Anna Wintour herself. Look for her to move up to the front row.
Behind the First Lady, a Shadow Stylist By Cathy Horyn & Eric Wilson (NYTimes)
Ikram (Official Site)

Today In First Lady:

Vogue Previews Its Michelle
Obama Issue Online

03v For those of you who have a lingering post-inaugural fascination with all things Obama, Vogue has a preview of its long rumored and highly anticipated cover story on First Lady Michelle Obama at It's an edited version, so you'll probably have to lay out the cash at the newsstand for the full experience, but in the meantime, it's always amusing to read André Leon Talley's adoring musings on almost anything.

Mrs. Obama has a hug—a sincere and friendly embrace—that has become familiar to countless supporters from coast to coast. And when she talks to you, she focuses all her calm attention on your face. For a passionate supporter like me (someone who, like millions of regular American citizens, volunteered in the campaign trenches and basked in the glow of glory at the Inauguration), being the focus of this reassuring gaze is akin to hearing a chord from John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." Or maybe Ralph Vaughan Williams's "The Lark Ascending": All is well and right and real.

There's also an accompanying slideshow featuring Annie Liebovitz photographs of the First Lady in favorite labels Narciso Rodriguez, J. Crew and Jason Wu on the cover.
It's still kind of odd to see the First Family as such pop culture icons, but all things considered, it's a refreshing change of pace, and, for now, Mrs. Obama seems happy to give people something positive to focus on.
Leading Lady by André Leon Talley (

Quick Responses:

Barneys Gets Isabel Toledo In The
Windows...But Not On The Floor

As soon as Michelle Obama stepped out of Blair House yesterday morning, Barneys creative director Simon Doonan was ordered in no uncertain terms to get Isabel Toledo's collection in the windows ASAP. As you can see, he complied with what we can only guess is a collection of Spring '09 samples in a, uh, minimalistic display of pieces which presumably will be available...sometime soon.
Included is an ivory lace suit (pictured above left) which is kind of like the First Lady's lemongrass ensemble (if you want to push it).
Alas, for those in need of immediate Toledo gratification, there was precious little available upstairs on the second floor to purchase immediately. We did see enough pieces to count on one hand including a particularly fetching jersey dress with multicolor straps in a sunburst pattern covering the halter back. Frankly, her clothes typically defy simple description, so just go and see it yourself.
We love Isabel, and anything she wants to make is fine by us, we just hope her tiny production capacity can meet the proliferation in demand that has happened overnight.
Also, it is high time for your own homepage, Mrs. Toledo!
Additionally, in what appears to be a new national hobby, today's Obama fashion report includes a boldly printed Tracy Feith dress worn with black ballet flats to the National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral. The woman is a fashion sorceress.
Fashion Scoops: Barney's Endorsement (WWD)

Barneystoledo1 Barneystoledo3
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Inauguration Fashion II:

It's Jason Wu At Night

ObamaWu Michelle Obama threw us another curve tonight in an elaborately detailed white gown by young designer Jason Wu. The softly draped, one shoulder frock is festooned with floral embroidery, and comes as something of a surprise to everyone who was expecting another slim dress in the jewel tones that have become something of a signature for the new First Lady.
Both the Big Dress and Isabel Toledo's daytime ensemble will be dissected and discussed endlessly over the next few days. Let us simply say that To-LEE-do is a city in Ohio, and To-LAY-do is the last name of a designer, just so you know.
It's worth mentioning that by all reports, Mrs. Obama has played the event like an actress getting ready to win an Oscar, with Chicago retailer Ikram playing the Rachel Zoe stylist role. Both Toledo and Wu professed surprise that Mrs. Obama chose their outfits, despite the fact that they were designed specifically for her. This would suggest that at least a few other designers were also pressed into service, designing special items for Mrs. Obama that have yet to be seen, giving her options that could have been decided at the last minute. Perhaps there is a Thakoon suit awaiting the next daytime event, or are there custom gowns from Maria Pinto or Narciso Rodriguez hanging in a White House closet, waiting for the next state dinner? This is the first time in recent memory that the inaugural fashion sketches haven't been released to the press a day or two in advance by designers working closely with the future First Lady.
With a self awareness that's rare coming from someone just entering the White House, The First Lady has made the very most of the interest and suspense over her wardrobe choices. It would suggest that she will be interesting to watch for a lot of reasons beyond her clothes.

Inauguration Fashion I:

Michelle Obama In Isabel Toledo
For The Daytime

Michelle-obama2 There's really only one thing people are interested in today, so we'll get back to our usual reporting tomorrow.
We still don't know who is making The Big Gown, but the Today Show reports that Michelle Obama's sunny yellow coat and dress were designed by Isabel Toledo, the Cuban born, New York based designer who briefly served as creative director for the Anne Klein label.
Toledo is a favorite of The Shophound, so we are always happy to see her get worthy attention.
We're sure more details will emerge, but the textured wool ensemble appears to have a matching cardigan or scarf.
So far, so good.
A closer shot on TV reveals the coat fabric to be a heavy, intricately patterned floral lace (!?) perhaps attached or embroidered on a heavier wool backing.