Analysing the style impact of po­lit­i­cal fig­ures’ wardrobes

More women in power in­flu­ence the way we dress

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FASHION - By CARO­LINE LEAPER

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 Pol­i­tic­, 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 Pol­i­tic­

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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