Michelle Obama

I know this is heresy of a sort, but sitting in the opening shows of New York Fashion Week, a thought keeps niggling away at the back of my mind: maybe being marketed by Mrs O (because, let’s face it, when she wears your dress it’s free global marketing on an unprecedented scale), is NOT helpful. Maybe, in fact, it creates expectations some designers are simply not ready to bear. Before you rant and rave, hear me out. Read more

The great and witty Simon Doonan has a new book out next week – “The Asylum”, about the fashion world, natch – and in the process of promoting it has gotten up on the hustings to mount a campaign against writing about politician’s clothes, most recently in an interview with The New Republic. You can read it yourself, but here’s the thing: in taking this stand, Mr Doonan is missing a crucial point. Read more

President Obama has just nominated Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg as the ambassador to Japan. Assuming the Senate confirms her, you know what this means: the crowning of a new style icon. It’s not quite as big a deal as a royal baby, but it’s going to take Prince George awhile to grow into his Look and start influencing clothing sales, while Mrs Kennedy-Schlossberg will have to unveil her own pretty soon. Let the who-will-dress-her wars begin!

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I did an interview in tomorrow’s paper – it will be up soon on-line – with Christiane Amanpour, the ABC anchor, CNN correspondent, war reporter, mother, and all-around very impressive woman, that I really hope everyone will read (and I think that’s the first time I’ve ever written those words in a blog). Not because I wrote the piece, but because for the first time I can remember, a really powerful woman has been secure enough in her own intelligence and position; secure enough in the level of respect she commands; to be absolutely comfortable talking, at length, about clothes.

Specifically her clothes, and why she wears what she wears when, say, she is in the field, or in the studio, or interviewing various Presidents, or going to the White House Correspondents’ dinner. It’s a breakthrough, and I don’t say that lightly. Read more

So Reed Krakoff, executive creative director and president of Coach, the man who – along with CEO Lew Frankfort – built it into the $4.76 billion brand, is leaving after almost 16 years. Or will be leaving soon: officially, he steps down in June of 2014 when his current contract is up, which also happens to be just after Mr Frankfort retires as CEO (last September he announced he was leaving at the end of this year). Those are the facts; so what do they all mean?

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American Vogue may have Michelle Obama as their cover coup, but L’Uomo Vogue, Italian Vogue’s men’s fashion arm, has, on their April issue…Mayor Michael Bloomberg! I kid you not. It’s a little left-field as a choice, no? For both of them (the cover model and the magazine). So what’s the rationale here?

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Right on cue, yesterday Michelle Obama resurrected a previously worn Prabal Gurung dress from her wardrobe to wear for Easter Sunday. It’s not only a holiday-appropriate move, and nicely economic, but underscores the trend she set during the campaign for shopping her own closet, Read more

If anyone wants to know the difference between Milan and New York fashion, the two cities that are most often seem as similar in their focus on the commercial as opposed to the insanely creative/conceptual, simply consider two recent pieces of news from over the pond: first, in her official term 2 Flotus portrait, Mrs O is wearing Reed Krakoff; second, the CFDA has hired Boston Consulting Group to help them determine their goals for the next five years. Fashion-as-business! It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

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MIchelle Obama wears Jason Wu at the State of the Union Address. Getty Images

Shocking! Michelle Obama has worn the same designer at two major events in a row. At the inaugural ball she wore a Jason Wu gown as she did the first time round, which is shocking enough – the last first lady to wear the same designer to two inaugural balls was Nancy Reagan. Mrs O then wore Jason Wu again at the State of the Union last night.

The dress, with a black sleeveless top and sparkly bordeaux sequinned skirt, looks like a customised variation of a frock from Mr Wu’s pre-fall collection, which had a leather spaghetti strap top and the same body. That dress, of course, was shown last December, and will not be in stores until May/June, so Mrs O is getting it celebrity-early, an indication of just how unlike normal shopping her shopping is. I think sometimes we get carried away with the J Crew side of things, and forget that there’s a very not-like-everyone-else flip side to her wardrobe – good or bad, depending on your point of view. Read more

As show season kicked off I did an interview with Jason Wu – aka the man who made Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown… twice! – before his A/W show, and two things he said have stuck in my mind:

First, for him, the Flotus effect is felt more in publicity than an actual sales spike. In other words, since Mrs O wore his gowns, everyone now knows his name in a way they might not otherwise, but it hasn’t had much effect on the bottom line.

And second, he makes 90 per cent of his clothes not just in America, but in New York, right down the street from his atelier, not because of any political position (though it’s nice to get credit for that) but because his pieces require so much hand-work – he needs to be close by to supervise. Read more

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Note to any woman considering her dressing plans as we approach the party season: the single most suggestive body part to flash these days is not cleavage (despite what those Victoria’s Secret angels say), not legs and not even the slices of side that certain fashion designers are pushing with their weird cut-out dresses. No, it’s a well-muscled arm. Stockings have nothing on biceps when it comes to shocking.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that in l’Affaire Patraeus currently gripping the United States, clothes would come to play a part. Fashion is always a key part of any seduction narrative, because it is such a classic weapon of allure (and no, these words are not accidental). Paula Broadwell’s de facto signature has become her “toned arms” as widely and regularly displayed in various sleeveless outfits.  Read more

This is shaping up to be a trend. Yesterday the Duchess of Cambridge wore a DVF coat – double rows of buttons, epaulets – to the Remembrance Day ceremonies, which was the VERY SAME DVF coat she wore last year. Seems to me this is a statement not unlike that of Mrs O’s wearing an old Michael Kors dress at her husband’s electoral victory moment last week. Read more

Last night, appearing on stage to celebrate her husband’s next four years as President, Michelle Obama did something interesting: she wore an old dress. Specifically, she wore a burgundy Michael Kors brocade dress she has worn TWICE — count ‘em — before. Given the amount of attention her clothes get, and what her choices can do for a designer, this was a clear statement about a desire to move the conversation. We’ve talked about this dress already, after all. Now let’s talk about what not getting a new dress means. Read more

Last night in their last ditch rallies, both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama, first-ladies-in-waiting, demonstrated interesting differences in cover-up style. I am not talking about political subterfuge. I’m talking about coats. Read more

In one of those cosmic coincidences of timing, the last night of the Democratic convention, where President Obama talked often about the long hard, road ahead, also coincided with Fashion’s Night Out, that sybaritic extravaganza of shopping and schmoozing (well, mostly schmoozing, if you listen to retailers who Do Not Want to be Named) that also happened to mark the first day of New York Fashion Week. It made for a pretty powerful contrast. STill, my favourite fashion moment was not the Karaoke at Michael Kors, but rather what was on stage at the DNC, from Mr O’s tie to Mrs O’s new designer. Read more

Last night at the DNC, during a pre-speech convention interview, First Lady Michelle Obama (then wearing DVF) told Deborah Norville , who was excitedly asking her what she was going to wear on stage, that she didn’t know, and she would pick what she likes. Frankly, after seeing her choice — a dress by an African-American female designer from Detroit, Tracy Reese — I believe this like I believe gullible isn’t in the dictionary. Read more

Oscar de la Renta, the designer who was for decades the bipartisan go-to man for first ladies from Nancy Reagan to Hillary Clinton to Laura Bush (he even made Jenna Bush’s wedding dress), but who has been somewhat sidelined during the Obama years, stepped back onto centre stage last night in Tampa — metaphorically speaking — thanks to Ann Romney, whose brilliant, very Republican red, belted dress came from the brand. It was a meaningful choice, alluding to Washington tradition as well as the LA-NY-DC financial/social nexus, for whom Mr De La Renta is a go-to name. And it put Mrs Romney in pretty stark opposition to Michelle Obama. Read more

Allow me to toot our own horn here for a moment, and note there’s a very interesting piece today in the FT by my colleague Stephanie Kirchgaessner on various industries and the presidential candidate they support. Romney seems to have come out on top in a bunch of them, at least as far as donations go but at least one other industry that wasn’t on the list skews very heavily BO (unfortunate initials, I know): fashion.
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