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Laura Smalls Talks Dressing Michelle Obama and Her Spring 2013 Collection

Laura Smalls catapulted out of relative obscurity onto the national scene last week when Michelle Obama wore not one, but two of her pieces to the DNC. Not bad for a rising designer!
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Laura Smalls catapulted out of relative obscurity onto the national scene last week when Michelle Obama wore not one, but two of her pieces to the DNC. Not bad for a rising designer!

Smalls had already snagged a spot on the New York Fashion Week calendar, upon the suggestion of none other than Mr. André Leon Talley (who attended her Spring 2013 show along with Miss Universe Leila Lopes). MObama wearing her frock is just the icing on an already delicious, multi layered cake.

Naturally, we were curious to see more from Smalls. Thank goodness we were invited to her Spring 2013 show at the Andaz hotel last night. The designer served up a collection of ladylike dresses, gowns, and suits with a saucy flare. From a sexy candy stripe peekaboo halter dresses to an ivory pantsuit with cheeky leopard printed back panel, it was easy to see why the First Lady was so attracted to Smalls's designs.

We caught up with the designer after the show to chat about her big MObama moment--and what it means for the future of her label.

So, it’s been a pretty big week for you! Yes, it’s been incredible!

What was it like seeing Michelle Obama come out in your dress? My mom spotted her in the audience, and she left me a message on my phone because I wasn’t home-- I was busy working, preparing for this week. And she said, “I think Michelle Obama has your dress on!” And then I was like, 'Okay mom, what color?' And then I told my husband and he was describing it, but not too clear, [ed. note: such a guy thing to do, huh?] so I was like, 'Take a picture of the TV!' She was sitting in the audience. She wasn’t even up onstage, and I have that on my phone. In that moment, my head was spinning!

So, you didn’t even know she was going to be wearing your dress? No!

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Have you experienced a difference in sales? Yeah, people have been contacting me--all kinds of people, TV shows, Inside Edition. But you know, I don’t feel comfortable going on the air to talk about her, and the process. I don’t want to self-promote. My joy really comes from dressing her because it’s historic, and I’m really a Barack fan, an Obama family fan, so I can’t say enough!

Did they let you know how she came to choose your dress? No. I had a connection, and I sent a few pictures and then they pick what they want. You don’t hear back from them, you just have to wait and be patient.

On to your spring collection. What was your vision? Actually, I was influenced by Gauguin’s paintings. I love the orange and the salmon color he punctuates in his paintings. Some of them are dark, murky colors, and then you see the orange over here and the corals. I think his use of color is beautiful, so that was the beginning of the inspiration. But then it kind of morphed into my natural aesthetic.

Any mishaps while you were putting the collection together? Funny anecdotes? Well, I made it into Women’s Wear Daily, which is huge! It’s huge for us. So, that’s really a blessing, it’s amazing!

Who else are you dying to get into your clothes? Nobody specific, honestly. I don’t target a celebrity, I just really like to dress women. I mean, there’s so many women with so much style, and I get joy from seeing those types of women in my clothes, so I want to get more of them out there.

How do you plan to unwind after the hubbub of Fashion Week? Sleep tonight, because I was up until 6 in the morning, so I want to get a good night’s rest. But then I want to sit down Saturday night and watch my favorite ghost stories!

Photos: GETTY