Fashion functions as a reflection of the times that we live in, which is why it should come as no surprise that sartorial choices can be extremely political.
Michelle Obama’s embrace of young American designers of color like Tracy Reese and Jason Wu during her two terms as First Lady or Melania Trump’s choice to wear a dress to the RNC by Roksanda Ilincic, viewed as a nod to how Ilincic’s Serbian background paralleled Melania’s own Slovenian upbringing. (Obama has also supported the popular designer.) A style decision at momentous public moments can speak a thousand words.
So when Sophie Theallet sent a now-viral letter asking her fellow fashion designers not to dress future First Lady Melania Trump, it brought to head many of the questions regarding how the election results would affect the fashion world, especially after many of the industry’s power players had donated to Clinton’s campaign, according to a survey by the Center for Responsive Politics.
In the time following Theallet’s letter, fashion designers have spoken up about the prospect of dressing the future First Lady. While some, like Joseph Altuzarra, chose to remain neutral about their political leanings, others like Marc Jacobs and Tommy Hilfiger were outspoken in how they felt about dressing the new FLOTUS. We’ve rounded up all the designers who have spoken out on the topic below.
Joseph Altuzarra: “I don’t want to not dress people I disagree with.”
Thom Browne: “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.”
Carolina Herrera: “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.”
Tommy Hilfiger: “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.”
Tom Ford: “I was asked to dress her [Melania Trump] quite a few years ago and I declined. She’s not necessarily my image.”
Marc Jacobs: “I have no interest whatsoever in dressing Melania Trump. I didn’t see [Sophie Theallet’s] letter. Personally, I’d rather put my energy into helping out those who will be hurt by [Donald] Trump and his supporters.”
Derek Lam: “What a tough question to answer now that the election has been decided! 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. 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.”
Humberto Leon, Kenzo and Opening Ceremony: “No one should and if she buys your clothes, tell people you don’t support it. You know who you are!”
Phillip Lim: “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: “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.”
Sophie Theallet: “As one who celebrates and strives for diversity, individual freedom, and respect for all lifestyles. I will not participate in dressing or associate myself in any way with the next First Lady. The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by.”
Diane von Furstenberg: “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.”
Marcus Wainwright, Rag & Bone: “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.”
Vera Wang: “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.”