Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President of the United States was full with symbolism. The sartorial choices of President Biden, first lady Dr. Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff have been seen by experts as a renewed commitment to those brands that are purpose-driven, diverse and quintessentially American. Ralph Lauren, which has consistently flown the flag of American fashion (from dressing various presidents and personalities to equipping the U.S. teams in the last Olympics) was the choice of both President Biden and former democrat runner, Secretary of State and first lady Hillary Clinton.
Fashion industry hopes for a new ‘Michelle Obama Effect’
In 2010, David Yermack, a professor of finance at the N.Y.U. Stern School of Business, authored a study on how former first lady Michelle Obama has created an unprecedented amount of value for the companies that make and sell the clothes she wore during her stay at the White House. “The stock price gains of the companies whose clothes she wore in public appearances—29 brands in all—are cumulative abnormal returns”, highlighted Yermack in an interview with the ‘Harvard Business Review’ back then. “She came in at a time when the economy was particularly tough and really shone a light on fashion in the broadest sense,” said Narciso Rodriguez, whose dress she wore on Obama’s inauguration’s party in 2008.
Commenting on the meaning underlying the Inauguration Day’s protagonists’ sartorial choices for the ‘Wall Street Journal’, Steven Kolb, chief executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, highlighted that “These moments on Day One are so important for an industry that’s been so hard hit and impacted by the pandemic.” “By wearing these American designers, they’re not only boosting the business of those individuals, but they’re really boosting the 373 billion dollars industry…We have a new administration that clearly is welcoming and wants to be supportive of our industry,” concluded Kolb.
Harris and Biden praised for their support for American emerging designers
Both the Vice President and the first lady were praised for their display of support for American designers. Kamala Harris wore a purple coat and dress by Christopher John Rogers, a Black New York designer who was named the American Emerging Designer of the Year at last year’s CFDA fashion awards. Rogers declared his team “honoured and humbled to have played a small part in this historic moment”. Jill Biden wore a custom blue wool-tweed dress, coat and matching face mask by another New York brand, Markarian, the brainchild of designer Alexandra O’Neill. The brand, established in 2017, makes clothes to order to minimise wastage, with production taking place entirely in New York City.
Former first lady Michelle Obama coincided with Kamala Harris in choosing Black American designer Sergio Hudson.
Also conscious and full of meaning were the looks donned by the Vice President and the first lady for the pre-inauguration coronavirus memorial held on the eve of Inauguration Day. Harris wore a custom camel coat by Pyer Moss, a label founded by Kerby Jean-Raymond, a socially conscious Black designer of Haitian descent. Biden wore a purple dress, coat and a mask from yet another New York based emerging designer, Jonathan Cohen, whose parents are Mexican. Cohen is a pioneer of upcycling, who called attention to the fact that both the mask and the lining of the coat were made from past seasons’ fabric remnants. Even Senator Bernie Sanders made a statement with his choice of mittens. Made by a Vermont schoolteacher, those were gifted to him two years ago, reports ‘Vox’. They are made from repurposed wool sweaters and lined with fleece made from recycled plastic bottles and provide yet another symbol of how the politician’s dearest causes come to life through his fashion choices.
Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN / AFP