TFANK’S SILK ROAD: The vibrant blue Barbara Tfank dress Michelle Obama wore on the campaign trial Monday was very of-the-moment colorwise, but the vintage fabric used to make it dates back decades. The rolled-neck dress was made from Bianchini-Férier silk twill in a mosaic tile motif. The print was created by artist-designer Raoul Dufy, who worked for the company from 1912 to about 1928. At that time, Dufy was known for the fabrics he made for Paul Poiret. Having collected Bianchini-Férier fabrics for 10 years, Tfank bought the Dufy-made mosaic one at an auction.
This story first appeared in the September 19, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“Talk about the holy grail. I have collected archival fabric for years and this particular one was done with roller printing by hand,” she said. “When you look at the design compared to today’s digital printing, the difference is between artwork and making a Xerox.”
The First Lady wore the dress at Florida State University. A friend, who Tfank had shown the unusual fabric to, spotted the dress on C-SPAN and called the designer to tell her the news. Monday’s sighting marked the fifth time Tfank has dressed the First Lady; a visit to Buckingham Palace last summer and the President’s State of the Union address earlier this year were two of the other occasions. Tfank declined to comment on dressing Obama, nor would she offer retail prices for her collection. Polyvore listed 10 Barbara Tfank dresses retailing from $2,140 to $3,340.
As for how the First Lady’s allegiance affects Tfank, she said, “I jokingly said to someone, ‘People now know how to pronounce my name.’ This definitely helps increase visibility and name recognition. It is a great honor and a pleasure to be of assistance to the First Lady. She kind of personifies everything that is great about women.”