The two high-priced, high-profile events put the spotlight on a symbiotic relationship developing between the Obama campaign, with its style-conscious first lady who dons a wide variety of American designers, and a deep-pocketed, largely Democratic fashion industry, which has been increasingly coordinating its support of Obama.
In February in New York, right before Fashion Week, Wintour and actress Scarlett Johansson hosted a fundraiser for the launch of the campaign’s Runway to Win online store and “project by fashion designers in support of Obama 2012,” which sells scarves, T-shirts and wristlets created by 22 designers to raise money for the reelection effort. After the success of the 2008’s Runway to Change site, which raised more than $1 million, the campaign is putting stock in fashion-forward initiatives.
Name an American designer. Vera Wang. Michael Kors. Diane von Furstenberg. Michelle Obama wears these American luxury labels and a host of others, earning her consistent praise from a fickle industry. She knows the tailoring of Narciso Rodriguez, the flounce of Marchesa, the sweetness of a Tracy Reese sheath.
Her sartorial savvy hasn’t hurt her husband. With Michelle Obama’s style, a socially progressive political agenda and a campaign ready to promote top designers at fundraisers, the industry coalesced behind the couple in 2008. This year, the designers behind many of the labels hanging in the first lady’s closet are supporting her husband’s reelection campaign, hosting high-dollar fundraisers and making campaign contributions. Although fashion industry executives have donated to both parties during past election seasons, designers traditionally supported issues, such as AIDS and the environment, rather than candidates. Obama is the first presidential contender who has generated widespread and deep-pocketed support from them.
A look at every American designer label Michelle Obama has worn since 2008, according to Mrs-O.com, a fashion blog that tracks the first lady’s daily wardrobe, indicates that many of her favored designers support the president. Excluding jewelry designers and mass-market retailers, nearly 50 percent of American designers worn by Michelle Obama donated to her husband’s 2008 or 2012 campaigns, according to Federal Election Commission filings. By early June 2008, only a handful of these designers had donated. In comparison, the number of designers donating by June 2012 has tripled.
In contrast, none of the American apparel designers worn by the first lady during her husband’s first term have donated to Republican candidates in 2008 or 2012. And according to a study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, fashion industry executives and employees in 2008 contributed almost twice as much to then-candidate Obama as to the GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain.