The Obama administration is leaving behind a legacy that obviously holds much more significance than what First Lady Michelle Obama wore, and the reasons we will deeply miss their presence in the White House are myriad. But for the purposes of this here fashion website, it's worth recognizing the impact the FLOTUS has had on the careers of many of the fashion designers whose clothing she put on.
Over the past eight years, Mrs. O has impressed us countless times by her outfit choices in designs by labels big and small, local and international. But she has perhaps had the biggest impact on the careers of lesser-known designers, who are certainly talented and worthy of recognition in their own right, but who were also just starting to take off before Obama wore their clothes, thereby accelerating the whole becoming-a-household-name process in many cases. The most famous example is, of course, Jason Wu, who dressed the First Lady for her husband’s first inauguration in 2009 (and many times since then). "Overnight" is the term most often used to describe how quickly he became a household name after that; we even created a timeline tracing his own meteoric rise throughout Obama’s first term.
But Wu isn't the only designer who saw an immediate boost after dressing the immensely popular and influential First Lady. Here, three designers of up-and-coming brands — all of whom are based in the U.S. (but not all born here) — share in their own words what Obama’s support has meant to them and their businesses, from instant legitimacy to increased interest from buyers.
Tanya Taylor, a Canadian-born, U.S.-based designer who launched her line in 2012 and has dressed the First Lady several times:
"Working with Mrs. Obama and her team has been an absolute dream, and the biggest honor of my career to date. In my wildest dreams, I never would have imagined being asked to dress Mrs. Obama on several occasions. There has definitely been a significant increase in brand awareness and in sales. However, something I didn't necessarily anticipate was that Mrs. Obama would help us to understand the diversity of age, size and race to which the brand appeals.
We have seen an uptick in both [retail orders and editorial requests]. Mrs. Obama made fashion accessible to the average American, and as a result of her wearing Tanya Taylor, orders on our website have grown. The same goes for celebrity dressing; we were discovered by some stylists thanks to Mrs. Obama."
Jane Siskin, Founder of U.S.-based Cinq à Sept, which launched in late 2015. Michelle and Malia Obama have both worn her designs:
"Being a new brand and receiving the kind of recognition we have been getting from stylists, celebrities and influencers has been an enormous thrill. Adding in the opportunity to dress the First Family during our first year of business is an overwhelming honor. The effect of having our brand on influential people has been impactful both within our own team and with the customer. Our customer has also had an immediate reaction, specifically with their demand for the Seraphina dress worn by Malia Obama.
We have received so much "love" since dressing the First Family. Our retail community has expressed an increase in brand awareness from their customers. Attention from the fashion community has also grown, with increasing interest in our upcoming New York Fashion Week presentation."
Mimi Plange, a Ghanian-born, U.S.-based designer who launched her line in 2010 and dressed the First Lady for an appearance on "The View" in 2012.
"Dressing Michelle Obama gave us an immense sense of hope, and confirmed our belief that anything is possible. The honor meant that our clothes could touch great and powerful women and it gave us lasting inspiration that we still pull from today. We dressed Michelle Obama in the first few years of establishing our brand. She gave us a chance, and it meant everything.
It made people pay attention and gave us a new voice, almost a tool to be able to tell and share our story with people who automatically wanted to know more. Buyers and editors wanted to know who we were. As an up-and-coming designer, it made your brand credible, right away. People wanted to see what we had to offer, it was a huge honor that became a selling tool.
As far as retail/sales is concerned, it definitely helped us open new national and international accounts and we definitely saw a change in editorial requests. It certainly gives global awareness that emerging brands like us need to compete and grow."
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