Last night Anna Wintour and Scarlett Johansson hosted "Runway to Win," the fundraising event in support of Obama's re-election campaign. Some fairly big-name fashion people attended, including model trio-of-the-moment Karlie Kloss, Chanel Iman, and Joan Smalls. Designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Tory Burch and Alexander Wang also all took time out from what is probably their busiest time of the year to come out to support Obama. You'll recall that a slew of them designed items like totes and tees for Obama's campaign.
But not everyone is responding well to fashion's (or more specifically, Anna Wintour's) call to arms for Obama. The Republicans, predictably, have taken the opportunity to pounce on the campaign, implying that it's elitist and even releasing a video (watch it here) calling last night's event "ritzy" (which is, you know, bad. Never mind about the ritzy bank accounts of some of the party's frontrunners. But we digress.) The "Runway to Win" $75 tote bags and $95 scarves--which are like diffusion line prices, by fashion standards--have been panned as out-of-reach for lower-income Americans, the Republican argument goes. Although you may recall, as reported by WWD, that Rick Santorum gave away ugly gray sweater vests to those who donated $100 to his campaign. We'd rather have the Thakoon scarf. But another digression.
Obama has often been accused as being out-of-touch with "real" Americans by his detractors, so this is nothing new. However, more mainstream sources have started to take aim at him and his campaign. The Atlantic just ran a piece called, "The Most Bourgeois Obama Campaign Gear" and kicked off the article with this statement: "If the merchandise the president is hawking is any indication, all the stereotypes about his supporters are true." The piece goes on to highlight a soy candle, a golf divot tool, martini glasses, and yoga pants.
But there are also some more serious allegations stemming from all this. According to a report in the WSJ, the Republicans are questioning if Obama is violating campaign-finance rules. Because of the low cost (oh wait, now the cost is low!) of the designer merch compared to say, an $1,800 main line Derek Lam handbag, "Republicans say that suggests they relied on corporate resources to keep costs low, which could amount to illegal campaign contributions," according to the WSJ. We don't pretend to understand all the ins and outs of campaign finance, but the Obama campaign contends that no rules are being broken.
So is fashion ultimately helping or hurting Obama? At last night's "Runway to Win" fete, Scarlett Johansson quipped to the Huffington Post: "They are so totally unfashionable!" Then said of Rick Santorum: "I mean, sweater vests are, I guess, charming for family photos and dinner with the grandparents... But I think you [can] wear a sweater vest ironically, right? Just go to the Lower East Side!"
We realize she was being silly, but could this possibly be adding fuel to the Republicans' fire? We can just see the retaliatory comments now: "Those Democrats only care about superficial things like how you dress!" So what do you think? Is fashion helping or hurting Obama?