Michelle Obama may have met her match when it comes to selling power.
During the Obama campaign and her first 100 days in office, whatever Mrs. O wore created a buying frenzy. The $148 Donna Ricco floral print dress from White House Black Market that Michelle Obama wore on The View during the campaign? Gone. The three-piece J.Crew ensemble the First Lady wore on the Tonight Show back in October of 2008? It crashed the retailer's site.
Now it's Kate Middleton who sends shoppers to stores and online in droves to buy whatever she's wearing. Of course, it's helpful that both the Duchess of Cambridge and the First Lady wear high street items that real people can actually afford (though Michelle Obama mixes Alaia and McQueen in with her H&M). They're accessible and that's why people want to dress like them.
The $340 Reiss bandage dress that Kate Middleton wore to meet Michelle Obama last week sold out within hours online. According to a Reiss spokesperson, traffic to their site was up 500% the day Kate wore the camel bandage dress, and a dress sold every minute. Traffic to Reiss's site, though Kate's dress is still sold out online, remains up 200%.
When Michelle Obama famously wore head-to-toe J.Crew on the Tonight Show, traffic to J.Crew's site increased by only 64% the next day versus the 500% spike Kate Middleton inspired at Reiss, according to the Daily News (though, to be fair, the site also crashed due the traffic surge). Individual views of the $148 Pembridge dot camilla skirt she wore increased 464%. Strangely enough, Michelle Obama's J.Crew ensemble (a skirt, shell and cardigan) added up to $340--exactly the same cost as Kate Middleton's now-impossible to find Reiss dress.
Of course, Kate shopping mania has only just begun. Michelle Obama has demonstrated a proven ability to move the market. According to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review "between November 2008 and December 2009, Michelle Obama created $2.7 billion in cumulative abnormal returns—value over and above normal market variations—for fashion and retail companies associated with the clothes she wore." Whether Kate Middleton will prove to be as good for fashion as Mrs. O remains to be seen. But here's hoping--for the sake of the US fashion industry--that she adds some American designers to the mix.