JUDGING OPRAH’S FASHION IMPACT

Byline: Miles Socha

NEW YORK — Will Oprah Winfrey, slated to be on the cover of every issue of O, her new magazine, for the foreseeable future, do for comfortable, classic fashions what she did for reading?
Perhaps, said advertising executives, who suggested that American designers and bridge sportswear firms cut samples in her size, reportedly a 14 right now, and send them to her, pronto.
Winfrey’s magazine, a co-venture between Hearst Magazines and Harpo Entertainment Group, hit newsstands this week with the talk-show host wearing a pale blue cashmere Ballantyne sweater and gray skirt from The Works, a private label at Saks Fifth Avenue.
“Oprah is a major influencer,” said Ed Taussig, group creative director at Grey Advertising. “She’s got her own sensibility and she’s very aware of her audience and her influence. She’ll wear what she feels is right and not necessarily for her advertisers.”
Designer Richard Metzger, who specializes in plus sizes, dressed Winfrey in a pale blue leather and silk ensemble for launch events this week. He acknowledged she’s no fashion plate, but enjoys wearing classic, pretty, comfortable clothes.
“Women relate to Oprah,” he said. “She fluctuates in size. She has figure flaws. And if they see her wearing something and she looks good in it, they’re going to say, ‘If Oprah can wear it, so can I.”‘
“I’d love to dress her,” said designer Dana Buchman. “She dresses a lot like American women. She likes shoulder pads, she likes color and a polished, put-together look.”
Ellen Kunes, editor in chief of O, said Winfrey selects her cover outfits from possibilities gathered by a stylist on staff.
Advertising executives agreed that having Oprah on the cover of every issue was a smart branding tactic, noting that’s how Martha Stewart cemented her brand name.
Taussig said Winfrey would be insufferable in her ubiquity if she weren’t “so human.” That she struggles with her weight makes her as compelling to follow as the chameleon pop star Madonna.
“You root for Oprah when she’s thin and you heave a sigh of sympathy when she’s fat,” he said. “I would be shocked if she didn’t have the same influence with the clothes she wears as the books she reads.”