POLITICS 101: Hours after Pamella Roland’s sister-in-law Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was blocked by protestors from entering a Washington, D.C., school, the designer offered a considerably quieter artistic lesson with her fall runway show.

Drawing upon Mark Rothko’s use of color, Roland spun a color wheel that included garnet, emerald, amethyst, onyx, aubergine and tobacco. As a board member of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Roland said, “I’m on the board at the Whitney, any American modern artist I really love. Obviously it’s more the colors of Rothko versus the style. That’s very simple, our style, the beading. One of his paintings I saw had the garnet and the emerald and I thought this painting is our show colors.”

After the show backstage, Roland said she was not really surprised by the fiery reaction to DeVos’ nomination. “She’s really good. She can handle it. She likes what she’s doing and she’s very smart,” said Roland. A businesswoman, philanthropist and right-wing campaign donor, DeVos has been challenged by critics for her support of school choice, school voucher programs and charter schools and Reformed Christian ties.

Roland said, “I think one thing people don’t understand is she’s very intelligent. She does have a love of people and children. Otherwise, why would she go through this? I couldn’t do it. But she’s very smart. Everybody’s just got to give her a chance. She can handle it.”

As a sign of their support, Roland and her husband, who stood quietly nearby Friday afternoon, attended the inauguration with their daughters. Roland said, “One thing about her is she has always been very, very supportive of me. From the day that I opened my business, she’s been wearing my clothes. She’s a really good customer and she wears my clothes well.”

As for whether people are politicizing Roland’s company as a result of her connection to DeVos, the designer said, “You know they may be but I don’t know about it. The biggest thing I can say is this is separate. I’m a fashion house. I don’t get into politics. We’re just trying to get our dresses out and get this show finished. We keep all of the negative stuff out. We have a great team and everybody’s pretty positive so…”

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