|Photo: Mario Testino for 'Vogue'|
Friday, 18 November 2016
HOW WE PLAN ON COVERING (OR NOT COVERING) MELANIA TRUMP'S FASHION CHOICES
If you're a regular Fashionista reader, you're well aware that we are very here for Michelle Obama's fashion choices, and have been since the start of President Obama's administration back in 2009. In fact, we've meticulously chronicled almost every look she's worn to a significant outing or affair, whether it was an accessible piece from ASOS or a major couture moment by Atelier Versace.
In the eight years that Mrs. Obama has served as the First Lady, she's become known on the fashion front for mixing high and low (Thom Browne and J.Crew, for example), championing emerging American brands (Jason Wu, Joseph Altuzarra, Tanya Taylor, Chris Benz, Brandon Maxwell), and, perhaps most importantly for all intents and purposes, simply loving clothes. She's never shied away from trying out a new designer, a bold pattern, some statement-making embellishments or a directional silhouette, and those are a few of the main reasons we love to write about her — and why you love to read about her. Google Analytics does not lie, friends.
Additionally, Mrs. Obama made sincere efforts to promote the industry, both domestically and abroad. She hosted the first-ever Fashion Education Workshop at the White House in October 2014, inviting the likes of Prabal Gurung, Maria Cornejo and Reed Krakoff to speak with aspiring designers, further proving her dedication to fostering the next generation of American talent. And finally, she has a tried-and-true friend in one Anna Wintour, who not only put her on the cover of Vogue three times — most recently for December 2016 — but also invited her to cut the ribbon at the ceremony unveiling the newly renamed Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2014. (In addition to supporting Barack Obama once he became the democratic nominee, Wintour was also a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton throughout her presidential campaign.)
On Jan. 20, 2017, a new First Lady will take up residence in the White House. Melania Trump, a former model (though not of the high fashion variety) whose campaign wardrobe consisted of high-end, largely off-the-rack pieces by Gucci — yes, the infamous pussy bow — Roksanda, Roland Mouret, Emilia Wickstead and even Ralph Lauren, will be thrust into the spotlight, leaving her with some Michelle Obama-sized sartorial shoes to fill. As if this task isn't difficult enough, she'll be on the arm of President-elect Donald Trump, whose victory in the electoral college stunned even the most trusted media outlets, and sent waves of panic throughout the country, especially among marginalized groups who fear for their safety. Trump and/or his Vice President-elect Mike Pence have been openly hostile regarding LGBTQ equality, same-sex marriage, female reproductive rights, immigration reform, and international trade (just to scratch the surface) — stances that not only alienate a good portion of the fashion community, but the nation as a whole. And this is why we plan on having no part in normalizing the Trump family, particularly when it comes to cataloging the First Lady's fashion choices.
It didn't take much time post-election for mainstream media to start publishing fluffy pieces about Trump, his family and his wife's "best" fashion moments, and while this type of content is likely good for page views ("Hate-sharing is real," asserts Liza, our traffic guru), we are opting out. As individuals, we don't want to contribute to humanizing or making light of an administration that poses such serious threats to women, minorities, immigrants and more, and that has so many other troubling implications that we can't ignore — but that we also can't talk about in sufficient depth, because this is first and foremost a site about fashion and beauty.
We won't go so far as to say we'll never write about what Mrs. Trump is wearing, but we're going to reserve it for strictly newsworthy occasions: Is her State Dinner ensemble a beautiful homage to the country the White House is hosting? Did she step out in a piece by an up-and-coming American label? Is there underlying meaning or cultural significance behind something she's wearing, or did it start a widespread conversation like the aforementioned pussy bow did? Is she in an accessible, instantly shoppable piece by a brand like J.Crew? Did she show up at the Met Gala?!
Determining how to cover (or not cover) the next First Lady is a conundrum similar to one that many designers are likely grappling with at the moment: Despite the massive amount of marketing potential that comes with dressing the First Lady, is aligning yourself with a potentially dangerous, racist administration worth the risk? The answer isn't a simple one: In an interview with the New York Times, Altuzarra, in a statement that can best be described as a diplomatic triple-negative, said, "I don't want to not dress people I disagree with." Marcus Wainwright of Rag & Bone echoed this sentiment, saying, "It would be hypocritical to say no to dressing a Trump. If we say we are about inclusivity and making American manufacturing great again, then we have to put that before personal political beliefs." While America's still reeling from the shock of the election, Carolina Herrera believes that, after a few months pass, designers will be more willing to step up to the plate, telling Business of Fashion, "You'll see everyone dressing Melania. She's representing the United States." (At press time, only one designer, Sophie Theallet, has openly stated her unwillingness to dress the incoming First Lady. Read her full letter below.)
However, it's naïve to think that the first brands or designers to embrace the opportunity to dress Trump won't face backlash. Take New Balance, for example: The Boston-based athletic brand was the first in the fashion realm to come out with words of support for Trump — specifically regarding his stance on trade and opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which would allow for easier, lower-tariffed foreign imports to the U.S. New Balance's VP of public affairs stated that a Trump presidency could potentially help things "move in the right direction" for the company, given that it manufactures its products in the U.S., but this "endorsement" turned sour almost immediately. In addition to a massive social-media movement calling for people to burn or dispose of their sneakers as an anti-Trump protest, Neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin took to his alt-right website Daily Stormer to declare New Balances the "Official Shoes of White People." Despite all efforts to clarify its comments in context and do damage control, New Balance will likely be associated with this radical bigotry for quite some time. It's worth noting, too, that despite the President-elect's fervent stance on bringing back American manufacturing, Mrs. Trump wore mainly European designers on the campaign trail (as did Mr. Trump, in his Brioni suits).
This election was also the very first in which Vogue formally endorsed a presidential candidate (Clinton), and if there's one person you don't want to cross as a fashion designer, it's Anna Wintour. However, a spokesperson for Vogue told BoF that the title "has a long, rich history, dating back to Mrs. Helen Taft, of covering America's First Ladies, regardless of party affiliation." In fact, Trump famously covered the glossy in 2005 wearing a Dior Haute Couture wedding gown that reportedly cost five figures. On the flip side, InStyle's newly minted Editor-in-Chief Laura Brown told the publication that she has no plans to cover Mrs. Trump in the magazine. Whether she will grace covers and editorials with the frequency that Mrs. Obama did remains to be seen, but we're suspecting a steep decline.
All this is to say that, sure, we will continue to monitor Mrs. Trump's fashion moments for any real significance; we're a fashion news website, and that's what we do. And, yes, Fashionista has covered the sartorial choices of plenty of men and women whose general beliefs or opinions may not align with those of our editors, and we'll continue to do so in the future. But those men and women weren't about to take the country's highest political office, and all we can really do now is take a stance. So if you're looking for a site that plans to catalog Mrs. Trump's looks each time she steps off of Air Force One or makes a public appearance, this is not the place.