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Industry’s Democratic Face-Off

The biggest show today won't be at Bryant Park, but the one on TV when 22 states hold their primary elections for the 2008 presidential election in...

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The biggest show today won’t be at Bryant Park, but the one on TV when 22 states hold their primary elections for the 2008 presidential election in so-called Super Tuesday.

And the fashion world is clearly engaged in the race for the White House. For example, in addition to holding a benefit for Sen. Hillary Clinton, Diane von Furstenberg gave $4,600, the maximum allowed by law, to her campaign, according to fundrace.org. “I sincerely believe she’s the best candidate,” the designer said, adding Sen. Barack Obama’s surge has done little to dampen her enthusiasm for her preferred candidate. “The more I watch her, the more I want her to be president.”

“I think she would do an amazing job,” seconded Marc Jacobs, whose store sold Hillary T-shirts during her senatorial run.

Donna Karan appears to be on the same page. She also gave Clinton $4,600 and her spokeswoman said Karan will be voting for the New York senator on Tuesday. Oscar de la Renta, who has dressed First Lady Laura Bush, also gave $4,600 to Clinton’s campaign.

Marc Bouwer is another Clinton supporter. “I firmly believe that she has the experience, expertise and commitment in dealing with the issues that are so important to all of us,” Bouwer said. “I also believe that a woman president may be able to change the very anti-American feelings created by the Republican George Bush administration.”

Also in the Clinton camp is Nicole Miller, who gave $2,300 to her campaign, and said, “I’ve known her for a long time. The first time I met her she came up and sewed labels with the seamstresses at our company. It was a union thing, so I got to meet her in person and then I also met her at various fund-raisers and events. Even with her hard exterior, she’s very sensitive. And I think her being a woman will make her a little less inclined to be combative, as far as getting into wars.”

But her business partner, Bud Konheim, is supporting the other Democratic candidate. “Right now I’m settling on Obama and I’ve never voted Democrat in my life,” he said. “What the country needs is to uplift its spirit. We don’t need new plans or new policies. Obama is all oratory and eloquence, but he’s absolutely uplifting and that’s the best thing for business. When people feel good, business thrives.”

Front-row regular Jamee Gregory and author Dominick Dunne agreed with Konheim. “I’m probably the only Democrat I know,” said Gregory. “I’m falling into the Obama camp because his message is so hopeful. It has been such a long time since there has been someone who speaks with such grace and intelligence. I’m concerned about the war in Iraq. It seems as though our country needs to take a deep breath and take a step back. America needs a new face.”

Added Dunne: “I like him for the same reason Caroline Kennedy likes him. He’s got excitement like no one has had since JFK. I love to hear him speak, I love his wit and I love his style.”

But going down to the wire, some former Clinton supporters appear to be changing their tune, giving Obama the slight edge in WWD’s straw poll.

Calvin Klein gave $4,600 to Clinton’s campaign last year but has since switched over to Obama, whom he’s said to be organizing a fund-raiser for. “I lived through the Kennedy era, and everything I see and hear from him is such an inspiration,” he said last week.

As for Tom Ford, he said, “I am a Democrat and will vote for the Democratic nominee whether that is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Both are excellent candidates.” But he seems to be putting his money behind Obama, to whom he gave $2,300. (The designer also donated $2,300 to former Democratic candidate Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, where Ford and his partner, Richard Buckley, have a home.)

“The most pressing issue is the climate and what’s going on with oil, greenhouse gases,” said Nigel Barker, an Obama supporter. “We will run out of fuel very soon and that is not being discussed properly by the candidates. When [President] Bush was in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, he asked [OPEC] to produce more oil because high oil prices could hurt world economies. And they said no we can’t. We can’t use what we don’t have.”

Tommy Hilfiger said, “Barack Obama. I think he’s a leader. I think he’ll bring change to this country.”

Then there are those who haven’t yet decided but are definitely leaning Democrat — and perhaps conjuring the dream ticket of Clinton and Obama.

“At this moment, I have no idea, though I like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,” said Anne Hathaway, who’s making the show rounds this week. “The most important issue for the world is to get us out of Iraq safely. That is for that country’s safety, and it will improve our standing in the world. But we also need to get our economy strong and I’m a supreme believer that everything falls back to education. That should always be a priority.”

Damon Dash also remains undecided between the two Democrats: “Either Obama or Hillary. I think all of the issues are really important. There are so many issues — and for the people who are affected by them, each is important. I have 10 businesses. One is not more important than the other. They are equally important.”

While professing to be for both, Isabel Toledo appears to be leaning more toward Obama. “I’m behind Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama,” she said, adding, “For me, it’s about the inspiration to believe in our country again. It’s funny how Obama is running his campaign on spirit and hope. It’s all about how enthusiastic he is, and he wants to make people believe in America. It’s uplifting. Change will happen because he has momentum — not only in our country but around the world. It’s packaging.”

Simon Doonan also has concerns about Clinton, even as he expressed support for her. “I am ping-ponging back and forward between Hillary and Obama so much that I have whiplash! I have a very meager understanding of the political scene. Most of the time I have no idea what they are talking about. I am one of the only people on the planet who is prepared to admit this. However, I think Obama has a better shot at stabilizing the situation in the Middle East. I am not sure the Middle Eastern leaders are going to listen to a woman.”

Then there’s writer Fran Lebowitz, who said, “I was for John Edwards. I was for him last time, too.”

As for this go-round, she said, “That’s why there’s a curtain in the voting booth.”

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