With the plethora of controversy surrounding President-Elect Donald Trump, it is no wonder that his wife, future First Lady Melania Trump, receives some slack as well. Whether being criticized for standing by a man making misogynistic comments to her comparative accomplishments of past First Ladies, it was only a matter of time until the fashion industry, political in nature, made their comments. Some refuse to dress her on principle, some will on the same basis, but everybody has an opinion.
The leader of the anti-dress camp was a title appointed to designer Sophie Theallet, in a conversation and debate sparking press release where she stated that her business was more than for profit, that artistic freedom plays a part as well. In her statement she is quoted saying:
“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. The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by.” -Sophie Theallet
Though she has dressed the first lady before, many question the relevance and impact this statement would have, as she has never been approached to dress a Trump, and it doesn’t seem likely style-wise. However, after her statement was released the power was in its snowball effect, encouraging other designers to step forward as well.
And these designers include the likes of Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Derek Lam, Phillip Lim, and more. While Lam doesn’t say anything personal against Melania and just wants to avoid the Trump presidency as a whole, Tom Ford just doesn’t feel like his clothes are suitable for any FLOTUS, saying her wardrobe should be more accessible and relatable to the public.
However, Jacobs and Lim are taking a firm stance against the first family. Lim acknowledged his brand’s dedication to authentic relationships, which he couldn’t see developing with Melania. Even further in defiance, Marc Jacobs and Humberto Leon of Kenzo stated:
“I’d rather put my energy into helping out those who will be hurt by [Donald] Trump and his supporters.” -Marc Jacobs
“No one should, and if she buys your clothes, tell people you don’t support it. You know who you are!” -Humbert Leon, Kenzo
As a whole the designers who blatantly state they will not dress her seem to be doing so from a moral standpoint. However, it seems to be the same moral reasoning, though on the opposite side of a spectrum, that many designers claim they will. While the main argument against dressing her is that she and her husband don’t represent inclusivity, designer Marcus Wainwright of Rag and Bone says inclusivity is exactly why designers should dress her.
That’s the main argument behind Diane von Furstenberg as well, stating that:
“Melania deserves the respect of any first lady before her. Our role as part of the fashion industry is to promote beauty, inclusiveness, diversity.”
-Diane von Furstenberg.
While many would say the incoming Presidential administration does not represent diversity, looking at the cabinet selections itself the only POC are Ben Carson and Elaine Chao, some designers are trying to be the civil peacekeepers. Tommy Hilfiger even just focused on the fact that she is simply a beautiful women who would make clothes looks good. Even Sam Edelman and Thom Browne simply want to respect the position of First Lady.
Undecided designers include Vera Wang, Rebecca Minkoff, Donna Karan, Jeremy Scott, Michael Kors, and more, many of whom don’t want to be on the record either way. In the end it comes down to two sanctions of people: those who will sacrifice profit and notoriety to make a political statement, and those who think being the bigger person, so to speak, is a political statement in itself.
Overall, I see the argument behind each position. Fashion design is an art, and many don’t want to compromise their artistic statement for a First Lady whose surrounding administration has targeted many in their community with hateful speech. However, some designers want to put themselves in a place where they are rising above the hate and positioning themselves as a more morally sound political entity. It is a very similar situation to the past and present protestors, and then those who put emphasis on working with the administration.
Either way there are going to be people telling those refusing that they should stand up and be better than those not budging, and those telling the people who agree to dress her to stand up against injustice. But at the end of the day there needs to be artists saying they don’t support the administration, and won’t lend their hand to dressing it, and other artists who need to give Melania a chance to do good with her status.
Perhaps she can choose designers who fall into the groups her family has marginalized, to give them to accolades and respect they deserve consistently, not just a publicity token. Current FLOTUS Michelle Obama’s outfits have often been observed as meaningful, wearing the designers of the son of immigrants, Narciso Rodriguez, to her meeting with Melania Trump. She has worn designers from the countries of visiting dignitaries during the State Dinners. She wore Italian brand Gucci to the Kennedy Center Awards as Italy’s political system was shook just about a week ago.
It can only be hoped that Melania will show the same dedication to socially conscious dressing as Michelle Obama has, and not just display the extreme wealth her family possesses. This, in fact, does not include a pussy bow top after your husband’s comments about grabbing women by such. Perhaps then more designers would be willing to give her a chance. Until then however, solidarity lays with those hesitant to show support to such a controversial figure, future First Lady or not.
by Cassandra Gagnon for The Untitled Magazine.