Hat tips: JJP readers

From Women’s Wear Daily:

Dressing Michelle: Major Designers Wait for First Lady’s Call
by Bridget Foley
Posted Thursday April 02, 2009
Last Edited Friday April 03, 2009
From WWD Issue 04/03/2009

Where in the world are Donna, Ralph and Calvin?

Certainly not on the spousal circuit at the G-20 summit in London. In fact, as President Barack Obama and 19 other global leaders huddle to ponder the world’s economic woes, Michelle Obama has reaffirmed with gusto her fashion support of America’s new and niche, and given anecdotal support as well to antiprotectionism via cardigans by Azzedine Alaïa and Junya Watanabe.

Yet, save for a recent digression to Michael Kors, Obama continues to show zero interest in the big guns of American fashion, those whose names resonate around the world, and who collectively employ thousands of people. Obama’s early appearances in the likes of Jason Wu, Thakoon and Isabel Toledo, (with the punch of Narciso Rodriguez worked in for good measure), both captivated and charmed much of the country while exciting an industry that understands the myriad challenges faced by small fashion houses even under the best of circumstances. But as time goes on, with economic recovery feeling none too close and the Obamas’ honeymoon with the world still passionate enough for the First Lady’s sartorial choices to garner major, gushing headlines, should she diversify her wardrobe choices, especially as the industry prepares to celebrate her with a CFDA Board of Directors Special Tribute? Indeed, does she have a responsibility to do so?

Like the auto and financial industries, fashion is in crisis. Yet the person in the administration best positioned to support its major players — those whose collective vicissitudes play into the economy in a considerable way and whose individual swings of fortune impact the lives of countless working people up and down the supply chain and their families — is giving them the cold shoulder. And we don’t mean Donna Karan’s. No one’s asking for a big-gun bailout, Mrs. O (at least not yet). But how about a shout-out?


Within the major fashion houses, there is a growing desire for Obama to broaden her choices to include their wares. “American fashion right now is struggling,” says Oscar de la Renta. “I think I understand what [Obama and her advisers] are doing, but I don’t think that is the right message at this particular point….I don’t object to the fact that Mrs. Obama is wearing J. Crew to whatever because the diversity of America is what makes this country great. But there are a lot of great designers out there. I think it’s wrong to go in one direction only.”

For his part, de la Renta notes that, in recent history, first ladies have always had direct contact with a designer, typically relying on one or two. He suggests that, designer or otherwise, Obama would benefit from expanding her current range of fashion advisers, particularly on matters of protocol. “You don’t,” he declares definitively, “go to Buckingham Palace in a sweater.”


Oh REALLY, Oscar?

Well, Mrs. Obama did.

And, I hope she NEVER wears anything of yours. Period.

The nerve of these elitist mofos to think that they will BULLY The First Lady into wearing their clothes. No, The First Lady doesn’t need you or your ilk for validation. Remember, this isn’t the first article like this. They truly expected FLOTUS to be on her knees to them. When she wasn’t, then they got snippy. Remember, those articles with ‘anonymous’ quotes..at first. Then having that woman at the Post do her snarkfest. Now, it’s fullblown open disrespect.

You all want a Black woman’s help, but are from an industry that can’t be bothered to put Black women on the runway to model your designs?

Phuck all of you.


A second story that came across in the replies was this diary over at DailyKos.

‘Whites-Only’ Designers Reap What They ‘Sew’ w/Mrs. O? (POLL)
by dmitcha
Fri Apr 03, 2009 at 11:04:46 PM PDT

The coolest thing about being African-American and bilingual Italian is that when you go to a model casting in Milan and are pointed to the sign that reads “no ragazze di colore” (no colored girls), you can: a) understand it; and b) get sent right back to the casting as a Brazilian and instructed by your agent not to speak English to anyone.

Today, in an article titled “Dressing Michelle: Major Designers Wait for First Lady’s Call,” Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) posted the outrage of American designers like Oscar de la Renta, who stated, “I don’t object to the fact that Mrs. Obama is wearing J. Crew to whatever because the diversity of America is what makes this country great. But there are a lot of great designers out there. I think it’s wrong to go in one direction only.”

Um. EXACTLY. So where is that sentiment decade after decade as U.S. designers send all-white models down their runways? I don’t know whether to shake with laughter or with disbelief! More indignation and hard stats below the fold.

Let’s start with the lede from WWD: “Where in the world are Donna, Ralph and Calvin?” Now let’s reply with the numbers. The RECENT numbers.

In Feb 2009, New York’s Fashion Week featured 116 labels and 3,697 runway spots. 668 of those spots – 18% – went to models of color. Not 668 models, mind you, because three of the top ethnic girls took up half of those spots with repeat appearances). That’s right, 18% women of color – ANY COLOR – on the runways and 82% white models. In New York City. So the real question should be “Donna, Ralph and Calvin, where in the world are your ethnic models?” And the answer is:

Calvin Klein: showed 1 look with an ethnic model out of 35 he sent down his runway.

Donna Karan: showed 3 looks with ethnic models out of 45 she sent down her runway.

Ralph Lauren: Nearly 50% of his looks were worn by Black, Latina and Asian models. That explains why WWD’s Photoshopped look of Mrs. Obama wearing a Feb 2009 U.S. runway design was from Ralph Lauren’s show – where they could actually find someone with brown arms and legs. (As for the above quote from Oscar de la Renta, comme d’habitude, his runway diversity was nearly 50%).

Understand that Feb 2009 marks a 50% increase over the year before, due to the concerted efforts of model-turned-agent Bethanne Hardison and designer Dianne von Furstenberg to diversify U.S. runways. As stunning examples, in 2008, Donna Karan cast 1 ethnic model out of 23, Calvin Klein cast 1 out of 21, and Jill Stuart had NONE (Paris’s entire 2008 Fashion Week – 40 designers – also had NONE – but they’re not demanding that the President’s wife wear their clothes). Two years earlier in 2007, 1/3 of the U.S. runways (101 shows) had no models of color whatsoever. We know that because WWD reported it…so how can they now champion the cause of the same designers to be represented by our African-American First Lady?

Organized complaints about the “whitewashing” of the world’s runways date back to the ’80s (there was a diverse period before that in the ’70s). I still remember the documentary “When Supermodels Ruled the World,” when Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista confessed to standoffs with designers who did not want to put a Black girl on their runways. The two supermodels stood firm – “No Naomi; no Christy or Linda.” And Naomi Campbell was one of the biggest models in the world at the time! In 1993, I was at the press conference when at least a dozen of the top Black models lodged firm complaints about the blocking of ethnic models from runway and print. But when reporters pushed them to name names, they were unwilling to. That has long disappointed me – it’s addressed below.

Let me explain my personal connection to this insanity. I was a working model in New York in the ’80s, booked for “out-of-towners” in Philadelphia with the big names but blocked from the Manhattan circuit by an agent who advised that [insert almost any big name designer here, like the ones above] didn’t put Black girls on their runways. Twenty years later, designers are still arguing that they don’t hire models of any color because they don’t want to be labeled “an ethnic designer” or they cannot find any ethnic models to hire. SERIOUSLY. THEY SAY THIS OUT LOUD.

Now they clamor for our African-American First Lady, who one month ago wouldn’t have seen anyone who remotely looked like her on their own runways, to wear their clothes because “the kind of worldwide attention Obama and her labels are getting can boost an entire corporate psyche from designer to ground floor. It can boost sales as well.” Well, hiring ethnic models could boost their professional psyches – and boost rent payments, as well.


So full rant aside…there are many people who will read this and rail against the fashion industry in general or think it is the sour grapes of a former model or deride all of the attention paid to Mrs. Obama’s wardrobe in the first place. To that, I must reply – I understand. I do! But if you think the extraordinary attention paid to the looks, grace and style of our country’s first African-American First Lady truly will not have enormous societal and international repercussions, and for generations to come, you are incorrect.

Complete diary at link above.

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