NEW YORK — For her first official meet-and-greet with New York's fashion industry, Michelle Obama adhered to the cardinal rule of style — she wore all black.
At a fund-raiser in her honor Tuesday night, Obama chose to wear a black ensemble by Isabel Toledo, accented with a striking costume necklace by Tom Binns. The potential first lady arrived promptly to the reception at the Sikkema Jenkins & Co. gallery in Chelsea, minutes after hosts André Leon Talley, Anna Wintour and Shelby Bryan. (The other co-host, Calvin Klein, who opened his Perry Street home for a private dinner afterward, arrived later on the arm of his daughter, Marci.) Once inside Talley introduced her to the crowd, which included Catherine Malandrino, Erin Fetherston, Cynthia Rowley, Lisa Airan, Thakoon Panichgul, Ralph Rucci, Julie Gilhart, Amanda Brooks, Iman, Chris Benz and Yigal Azrouël, who had paid either $1,000 or $2,300 to attend. And, according to one source, the crowd was "pumped" by Obama's presence, in spite of the soaring temperatures inside the venue.
"I'm excited for Obama becoming president," said Zac Posen, who was wearing a "Yes, we can" T-shirt emblazoned with Barack Obama's face under his suit. "I think it's always great for someone who represents our country to look good, but most important is for the values of our country to be in place."
Peter Som echoed those sentiments. "I think she's amazing," he said. "Michelle and Barack are hopefully the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. And she's fabulously styled. She seems that she has an amazing sense of self. She has impeccable taste, so she is not going to need any help from anybody else."
Tory Burch, in preparing for the event, had been reading up on her. "I have a lot of questions, but I'm just excited to meet her," Burch said, adding of her style: "She has a great figure and is so easy to dress."
At the reception, Obama spoke for an estimated 20 minutes about meeting and falling for her husband while working at a law firm in Chicago. They were the only two African-Americans at the firm, and he was a summer associate and she was the lawyer to whom he was assigned. According to sources, Obama spoke of how she was initially less than impressed with her husband's background, odd name and ears, even as he kept asking her for a date. Eventually they went out for a sandwich and then to a church she always visited, where he sat with people in the basement and explained how they needed to change things. She praised her husband's ability to connect with people at all levels. She talked about how there is a choice in this country between "the way things are" and "the way things should be," said one observer."She is a really good and energetic speaker," said Behnaz Sarafpour, who got a chance to meet Obama after her remarks. "In my lifetime, in this country, I have never seen a couple in politics like that. You feel like you can relate to them. There was something very approachable and easy to relate to about her. And I think her fashion style is so refreshing. You just know that if she becomes first lady, she'd be the kind of first lady who would be into fashion and it would be really exciting to watch her and dress her."
Calvin Klein Collection's Francisco Costa concurred. "She is a big star," he said. "It was brilliant. She spoke so well, you got the chills."
Observers said Obama spoke individually to many in the room, seeming unhurried and eager to connect on a personal level rather than simply to smile and shake hands. She repeatedly referenced her husband, telling one guest how he was eager to visit New York and walk through Central Park. When her eldest daughter, Malia, pointed out he probably would be recognized, the Democratic candidate joked he'd wear a fake moustache. According to the guest, his wife recalled that their younger daughter, Sasha, then shot back, "What about your ears?"
After cocktails, a select 70 shuttled to the $10,000-a-head dinner at Klein's home, including LeBron James, Spike Lee, Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman, Monique Lhuillier, Nicole Miller, Adam Lippes, Isaac Mizrahi, LL Cool J, Aby and Samantha Rosen, Iman, André Balazs, Diana Picasso, Gilles Bensimon, Alison Sarofim and Stuart Parr.
They enjoyed cocktails at sunset against the Hudson River views, and a buffet dinner put together by Klein's two personal chefs, which included grilled salmon, grilled chicken and baby vegetables followed by desserts. According to one source, the mood was very casual, and everyone sat around the large living room eating with their plates sitting in their laps.
Klein introduced Obama, who made impromptu remarks that evoked standing ovations. According to attendees, a brief question-and-answer session resulted in inquiries from Sasha Heinz, Spike Lee, Shelby Bryan and Vikram Chatwal. "I thought she was pretty fabulous," said Nicole Miller, who was at the dinner. "I didn't realize how tall she was. She is quite elegant and spoke at length, and she was a very good off-the-cuff speaker. She was gracious and very easy to speak to. She came off as very intelligent and I think she would make a great first lady."For a crowd that likes to be fashionably late, the dinner ended on the early side, before 10 p.m., giving Obama a chance to rest up for her appearance on "The View" on Wednesday morning. On the show, she was more vocal about her fashion sense.
"It's fun to look pretty," Obama said on the program, adding that her wardrobe consists of "a little bit of everything." She opted for a black-and-white dress from retailer White House|Black Market for the TV appearance, which she had adorned with a black flower pin on her left shoulder. "You put a little pin on it, and you've got something going on," she said.
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