There's no doubt that when Michelle Obama came onto the political scene in 2007, fashion folks were elated. She was heralded as the next Jackie Kennedy: One half of a power couple that was both sophisticated and hip--a sharp contrast from the image cultivated by Laura and George Bush. She wore emerging designers like Jason Wu and Thakoon Panichgul (who soon after became household names) and J.Crew and H&M. Before Barack was even elected, Michelle had already landed herself a glowing Vogue profile, inspired dozens of fan blogs which profiled her every outfit and counted several big-name industry players, including Anna Wintour and Jenna Lyons, as supporters.
Fast forward four years, and Michelle Obama is back on the campaign trail with a new sartorial competitor: Ann Romney. Romney has all the makings of a political wife fashion icon: She's pretty, she's blonde and, unlike past aspiring first ladies, she has at least a passing interesting in fashion. She's worn new and established designers (Reed Krakoff, Oscar de la Renta, respectively) as well as contemporary cool brand J.Brand, and we think she always manages to look pretty great (if conservative). But despite all this, the fashion industry is noticeably cooler towards Romney.
We receive press release upon press release about Michelle's campaign wardrobe and it's become a major coup for a designer to dress Michelle Obama. But we've yet to receive one--one--about Ann Romney's.
When Ann wore a stunning red Oscar de la Renta to the RNC, there was not a peep from his PR team, while we received several notices about Michelle's DNC wardrobe from Tracey Reese and Laura Smalls respectively. When Romney wore a printed Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, DVF's PR team not only ignored it, but effectively distanced themselves from her saying they were "not quite sure how she obtained the dress."
Sure, Michelle is the First Lady, and Romney is only an aspiring one--but there's more to it than that. Michelle had stolen the hearts of the fashion industry well before she was first lady. Besides, no one can deny that fashion's involvement in politics is now more important than ever--precisely because landing a spot in Michelle's wardrobe has become such a coup for designers. So what gives? Why are no designers claiming Ann?
Well, for one, it's because the fashion industry, in general, tends to lean to the left. According to a recent survey conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics and commissioned by WWD, the industry gave a total of $435,160 to the presidential race--53.9 percent of which went to Obama, while only 45.9 percent went to Republicans.
Besides donating money, the fashion industry supports Obama in other ways--the most obvious of which is the Runway to Win campaign, a project put together by fashion's First Lady, Anna Wintour, and which Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Derek Lam, and more, have contributed to. Having so publicly put their name behind Obama, it would be a little awkward to then turn around and dress his opponent's wife--which may explain Diane von Furstenberg's reticence to acknowledge Romney wearing her dress. It also might explain why Romney isn't wearing designers like Michael Kors or Jason Wu--both of whom dress Michelle Obama often.
Another reason designers might not be clamoring to dress Ann Romney? They might be worried that if their name gets attached to Romney's they could miss out on a Michelle placement. Remember, Romney wore Oscar de la Renta to the RNC--the one major American designer Michelle has never worn. Here, it's not so much a political issue but a financial one: As we all know, when Michelle Obama wears your dress, it sells out.
Then again, perhaps some designers are fearful of pissing off another powerful woman: Anna Wintour. Wintour is one of Obama's top bundlers--and one of his most vocal supporters, appearing in commercials to aid his re-election campaign as well as hosting numerous fundraising dinners. Could Wintour's evident support for Obama be discouraging designers from working with Ann?
Another issue at hand could be of a more personal nature. Romney's stances on same-sex marriage and abortion could potentially marginalize a good portion of the fashion industry.
The only designer to lay claim to Romney, however reluctantly, is spotlight shunning Boston-based Alfred Fiandaca. He's been revealed, by a succesion of recent stories in WWD, The Cut, and then The Times, as Romney's go-to designer. In each, he's stated that he doesn't really want publicity. Fiandaca even admitted to the New York Times that he was a "life long democrat" and told The Cut, some of Mitt's policies offended him. Not exactly, a ringing endorsement.
Whatever the reasoning, it seems that the fashion industry and Ann Romney won't be fast friends. But the feeling may be mutual.
"Ann is not Mrs. Fashionista and she doesn’t want to be," Alfred Fiandaca told the New York Times. "She’s more feminine than high fashion."