7 american designers sound off on dressing melania trump

From Tommy Hilfiger to Jeremy Scott, here’s what every American designer has said about dressing Mrs. Trump so far.

by Hannah Ongley
Nov 23 2016, 5:39pm

Had her husband not won the election by promoting a level of hate and bigotry not seen in the country since Lady Bird Johnson was in the White House, Melania Trump would probably not have much trouble getting American designers to dress her. A former model — though not of the high fashion sort — she would probably look presentable even draped in her husband's remarkably ill-fitting suits. In the age of Instagram likes and click-through shopping, the potential exposure for young designers is almost priceless.

But the pressure not to normalize the President-Elect and his family is causing divided opinion amongst American designers, an overwhelming number of whom endorsed and actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton during her campaign. Diane von Furstenberg fund-raised, Marc Jacobs created merch for Clinton's campaign store, and Ralph Lauren created multiple debate looks for the self-described "pantsuit aficionado." The enthusiastic efforts of the outgoing FLOTUS in championing young American designers on a global stage — helping propel Jason Wu, Joseph Altuzarra, and Naeem Khan into the mainstream consciousness — is also likely to be a blow to the American fashion industry. Mrs. Trump also wore Ralph Lauren to the third presidential debate, though the designer expressed surprise at her choice. The established European designers she wore on the campaign trail, such as Balmain, Roland Mouret, and Gucci — Alessandro Michele designed the now-infamous pink pussy-bow blouse she wore to the second debate — were also bought off-the-rack.

Last week Sophie Theallet, who has dressed Mrs. Obama on multiple occasions over the last eight years, revealed that she would not be dressing the incoming First Lady, and encouraged other designers to do the same. However not all of them have joined her call. The divided and often confusing reactions of designers has opened a dialog around whether creators have a right to dictate what happens to their creations (a conundrum artists are all too familiar with). Here's what every American designer has said about dressing Mrs. Trump so far.

Sophie Theallet
Theallet has been one of Michelle Obama's favorite designers, and won't exactly be lining up to dress her successor. "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," Theallet wrote on her Instagram last week. "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." Theallet is an immigrant herself, and considers her brand "an expression of diversity and a reflection of the world we live in."

Tommy Hilfiger
Responding specifically to Theallet's letter, Hilfiger appeared quite keen to dress Mrs. Trump. "I think Melania is a very beautiful woman and I think any designer should be proud to dress her," the designer told WWD at a recent event in New York. "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." He can probably rule out the incoming First Lady requesting anything from his Tommy x Gigi line, however.

Humberto Leon
The Opening Ceremony and Kenzo designer has recently brought fashion and politics together in very overt ways, and things probably aren't going to change post-election. Leon recently shared Theallet's letter on his personal Facebook page, in between a call to help the Standing Rock Sioux and a shout-out to the Hamilton cast's address to Trump's VP Mike Pence. "No one should and if she buys your clothes, tell people you don't support it," the democratic designer added. "You know who you are!" It hardly comes as a surprise that a designer committed to advocating for LGBTQ and immigrant rights would want to dress a symbol of their erosion.

Neither Joseph Altuzarra's multicultural upbringing nor his close proximity to Mrs. Obama appear to have canceled out Mrs. Trump's chances at getting a personal fitting session with the New York-based designer. "I don't want to not dress people I disagree with," Altuzarra told the New York Times recently. The designer has dressed Mrs. Obama for multiple notable occasions, including her dinner with Princess Lalla Salma in Morocco and her trip to Japan as part of her of an effort to support education for girls.

Rag & Bone
The brand's chief executive Marcus Wainwright isn't ruling out a meeting with the incoming First Lady either. Speaking to the New York Times, the designer voiced a similar sentiment to Altuzarra. "It would be hypocritical to say no to dressing a Trump," he argued. "If we say we are about inclusivity and making American manufacturing great again, then we have to put that before personal political beliefs."

Carolina Herrera
Carolina Herrera recently dressed Mrs. Obama for the cover of Vogue's December issue, and appears very confident in the ability of Mrs. Trump to garner favor with her fellow designers "I think that in two or three months they'll reach out, because it's fashion," the 35-year industry veteran recently predicted in an interview with Business of Fashion. "You'll see everyone dressing Melania. She's representing the United States." The President-elect's daughter Ivanka Trump has been a fan of Herrera's designs for years.

Jeremy Scott
If Mrs. Trump wants to wear a teddy bear swimsuit or popsicle-print dress, she may not have to shop off the rack. "I'm going to give Melania the benefit of the doubt," Scott told Vanity Fair soon after the election. "She looks good in clothes. She wears them well, she's got a good figure. I don't know if it will have the same meaning for people. What I love about Michelle [Obama] is her personality. Her beauty is so much more about who she is and what she does. Obviously [Melania] looks great, but I can't divorce it from who she is. I don't know Melania. We don't know Melania." He doesn't, however, are share the same thoughts about her husband, telling VF, "No, I did not vote for him; no, I did not campaign for him; no, I did not want this." 


Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Flickr

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