Analysing the style impact of political figures’ wardrobes
More women in power influence the way we dress
Fashion and politics have always mixed, but with several women making big moves on big political stages in the last few months, it feels as though the overlap has been greater than ever.
Theresa May, Michelle Obama, Melania and Ivanka Trump have all been making headlines with every fashion choice that they make — but who, if anyone, is actually having an impact on the way we dress in the real world?
Not the British Prime Minister it seems. Because, despite all the coverage of her now-notorious brown leather trousers, they did anything but spark a surge in sales. Lyst, the e-tailer that brings together stores and brands from around the world on one website, shared its intel on the £995 Amanda Wakeley style, revealing that the Prime Minister’s appearance in the trousers prompted only a slight lift in interest for the label, up just 4 per cent on the previous month.
While items worn by May on some other occasions have later sold out, her selling power seems low-key when compared to the influence that some other political figures have been having on our fashion choices.
Hillary Clinton’s signature pantsuits, for example, almost won over America, launching a bona fide trend worn by stars including Solange Knowles and Lady Gaga, and prompting Google to see two significant peaks in global searches for the Democrat’s trademark ensemble — the first in July when Hillary wore all-white Ralph Lauren to the Democratic National Convention and then a bigger spike of almost 700 per cent on the week of the election. Lyst, too, reports a 460 per cent increase in searches from January to November from shoppers keen to not necessarily buy her exact designer suit, but, perhaps more tellingly, to get something similar no matter what their budget.
In fact, even when Hillary lost the election and went off radar for a few weeks, she was still a fashion influencer. Spotted hiking in an old Patagonia fleece, reporters noticed that she’d been wearing the same jumper for 20 years, prompting a flood of new customers to the brand.
Michelle Obama meanwhile, has taken a two-pronged approach to becoming an influencer — her style being most impactful when she either wears something from a high street brand, or when she champions a lesser-known designer. Lyst reports that New York labels Naeem Khan and Christian Siriano have both benefited from traffic surges when the FLOTUS has worn their designs, while the tangerine Narciso Rodriguez worn at her husband’s final State of the Union address in January, famously sold out before the room had even finished singing the national anthem. None of this compares, though, to the rise in sales experienced by Jason Wu who, at 26 years old was commissioned to design Mrs Obama’s inauguration gown, and has since built a fashion empire reportedly worth $10 million.
Laura Dunn, blogger at PoliticsAndStyle.com, likens her accessibility and effect to that caused by the Duchess of Cambridge. “Michelle Obama championed all sectors of American fashion in the White House, and wore items from affordable retailers such as Gap and Old Navy,” she explains of her relatable image. “She has also been credited with boosting the fortunes of all American preppy brand J. Crew during her eight years as First Lady. Her fashion legacy, though, will be her commitment to promoting emerging American designers such as Jason Wu, Thakoon and Isabel Toledo. The Duchess of Cambridge continues to have a similar impact, but in terms of promoting the best of British high street and designer fashion including Russell & Brom-
Michelle Obama ... Her fashion legacy ... will be her commitment to promoting emerging American designers. Laura Dunn, blogger at PoliticsAndStyle.com
ley, LK Bennett, Mulberry and Alexander McQueen.”
So what about the incoming First Lady, Melania Trump? Can she possibly hope to contribute as much to the fashion economy as her predecessor? Hundreds of articles have been written about Melania Trump’s style since her husband won the election last month, with designers feeling the need to declare whether they will or will not be interested in dressing the new FLOTUS — should they get the call.
But so far, like May, the column inches devoted to Melania’s outfits haven’t always been matched with real-world impact. A body-conscious $2,645 Roland Mouret dress worn by Mrs Trump to the presidential debate in September sold out a few days later on the designer’s website, and her $2,190 Roksanda puff-sleeve sheath was gone within hours, too. But, when considering how many of these exclusive dresses were made in the first place, it wouldn’t be entirely telling for us to judge her influence purely on the fact that she inspired a few dozen dress sales.
What’s perhaps more of a clue to Melania’s potential is the reaction she caused (apparently unintentionally) when she wore a Gucci pussy-bow blouse, the day after it was revealed that her husband had made comments about grabbing women “by the pussy”. Pussy-bows were subsequently searched for 6,000 times that day on Lyst, and Google trends, too, confirms a spike in searches worldwide with almost triple the number of queries that would have at any other time of the year. Intentional or not, she clearly made a mark with that one among the masses.
As Dunn points out, it takes time for a newcomer like Trump or May to establish their influence. “We don’t know too much about Melania Trump, so much of the (initial) focus will be on what she wears,” she explains. “As we get to know her and as we see which designers dress her for the inauguration ceremony, I think we will get more of a feel of how she will influence fashion over the next four years. I think the array of form-fitting block-colour dresses which she wore throughout the presidential campaign will be a permanent fixture, though.’
Will we steadily see a rush of searches for copycat power sheaths, then? That will surely be the measure of whether Mrs Trump is a true fashion influencer.
We sell different sizes to different nationalities. Chinese women always want the smallest ones whereas Americans want the biggest. Jerome Lalande, an Hermes expert and consultant for Collector Square
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