Being the First Lady of the United States comes along with certain expectations and hopes, including the fact that whoever steps into the role is often seen as the ultimate style icon of her time. From Jackie O to Michelle Obama, folks will always notice what the FLOTUS is wearing, and her choices will help set trends and spark careers. And while it’s usually an honor to be asked to dress the First Lady, this time around, top designers are definitely divided on whether or not they’ll have anything to do with Melania Trump.
When designer Sophie Theallet circulated an open email around the fashion world, her intention was clear. “As one who celebrates and strives for diversity, individual freedom and respect for all lifestyles, I will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady,” she wrote, adding, “The rhetoric of racism, sexism and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by. I encourage my fellow designers to do the same.”
Whether or not they’re responding to Sophie’s call specifically, plenty of designers have come out with their decisions on whether or not to dress the First Lady.
Tom revealed on The View, “I was asked to dress her quite a few years ago and I declined. She’s not necessarily my image. And, you know, the first lady — other than the fact that I’m a Democrat and voted for Hillary and I’m very sad and disappointed that she’s not in office — but other than that, even had Hillary won, she shouldn’t be wearing my clothes. They’re too expensive.”
When Melania opted for a Dolce & Gabbana dress for New Year’s Eve, Stefano was apparently totally pleased, posting a pic of the future First Lady on Instagram with the caption, “Melania Trump #DGwoman ❤❤❤❤❤ thank you 🇺🇸 #madeinitaly🇮🇹.” So yeah, his stance is pretty clear.
Marc Jacobs was also pretty darn clear on his stance, telling WWD, “I have no interest whatsoever in dressing Melania Trump… Personally, I’d rather put my energy into helping out those who will be hurt by [Donald] Trump and his supporters.”
“I think that in two or three months they’ll reach out, because it’s fashion. You’ll see everyone dressing Melania. She’s representing the United States,” Carolina told Business of Fashion. We’ll just have to see if she’s right or way off the mark on this one.
Part of the KENZO team, Humberto posted his thoughts to Facebook, saying, “No one should and if she buys your clothes, tell people you don’t support it. You know who you are!”
Naeem was admittedly uncertain when he told Elle, “I’m not a politician, I’m a fashion designer — but I do have a point of view and I do have loyalty. I really care for the values of our country and I feel like there’s something missing in the new administration. I am very skeptical and I’m afraid of where it’s going. But, I think we have to see.”
Rag & Bone’s Marcus Wainright isn’t uncertain at all, telling The New York Times, “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.”
Thom Browne is apparently willing to ignore the administration and focus on the role itself, saying to WWD, “Out of respect for the position of the first lady of our United States, I would be honored to be considered to design for any First Lady of the United States.”
Tanya Taylor is unsure, but possibly hopeful, telling Elle, “Well, when we have an opportunity to dress anyone, we’re selective. I tend to like to support women that I personally support — even when it comes to actresses or musicians. I think there needs to be a reason why you are dressing them outside of their title. That’s really why Michelle Obama was really exciting, so I think that I want to give it some time. I feel like they’re not in office yet, maybe […] she will do something that is really meaningful and then you can reevaluate it. I think right now it’s a little bit too soon to call.”
Hilfiger, however, is totally on board, but more because of their looks than their politics, according to WWD, with Tommy saying, “I think Melania is a very beautiful woman and I think any designer should be proud to dress her. Ivanka is equally as beautiful and smart, although she wears her own clothes. I don’t think people should become political about it. Everyone was very happy to dress Michelle [Obama] as well. I think they look great in the clothes. You’re not gonna get much more beautiful than Ivanka or Melania.”
Phillip Lim is on the other end of the opinion scale, explaining to WWD, “It’s been such an emotional roller coaster of an election process. The result has only confirmed my belief that we must stand for what we represent as a brand, so my sentiment is still the same. As a global brand, we are always looking to partner with individuals that we have authentic relationships with — ultimately, women and men that share similar set of values, desires and ideologies: inclusion, diversity, justice, consciousness, innovation…. With that said, we do not have a current relationship with Mrs. Trump and I don’t foresee a relationship developing under the Trump administration.”
Cynthia Rowley wants to make it clear that just because someone wears her clothes, doesn’t mean she necessarily supports them, telling WWD, “In the midst of this heated debate, the question actually seems somewhat irrelevant. She can simply purchase whatever she wants, so how can we control it? Just because she’s shown wearing a designer does not mean that designer is endorsing her, her husband or any of their beliefs. Checking someone’s ethical beliefs before they’re allowed to purchase sets up an exclusionary dynamic that feeds into the exact mentality that is preventing us from moving forward in a positive direction. Some people say fashion and politics should never mix, but when given the choice, I think you should address and dress your conscience.”
Vera Wang admits there’s no existing relationship between her brand and the Trump’s, but has a definite opinion about the relationship between the First Lady and the fashion industry, telling WWD, “We have not been contacted by the Trump campaign or administration thus far. But the first lady-elect should support American fashion, as did her predecessors.”
Altuzarra made his view, er, clear (?) when chatting with the New York Times, saying, “I don’t want to not dress people I disagree with.”
Diane von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg thinks it’s all about respect. “Donald Trump was elected and he will be our president. Melania deserves the respect of any first lady before her. Our role as part of the fashion industry is to promote beauty, inclusiveness, diversity. We should each be the best we can be and influence by our example,” she told WWD.
Tracey Reese wasn’t exactly clear about her position, but did tell Elle, “I don’t believe in a negative approach. I’ll put it that way. It’s easy enough to abstain or whatever, but I don’t believe in taking a negative approach. It’s a free country — or it used to be.”
“I’ve been slammed on social media when expressing an opinion about the election outcome. I was warned by people that I should not make an opinion which could alienate a client,” Derek Lam told WWD. “Having been duly warned, my response is, while I have incredible respect for our country’s political institutions, I find it challenging to be personally involved in dressing the new first lady. I would rather concentrate my energies on efforts towards a more just, honorable and a mutually respectful world. I don’t know Melania Trump personally, so I don’t wish my comments to seem I am prejudging her personal values, but I really don’t see myself getting involved with the Trump presidency.”
If you were a designer, would you be willing to dress Melania Trump? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(h/t Elle; photos via Fred Watkins + Andrew Toth + Jamie McCarthy + Monica Schipper + Ben Gabbe
+ Leigh Vogel/Getty)