Design may be one of the few industries powered primarily by self-expression, but that hasn’t deterred the White House from putting a lid on any leaks about Wednesday’s Celebration of Design.
This story first appeared in the October 6, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
First Lady Michelle Obama is hosting the workshop-cocktail-party that will be held at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Thom Browne, Narciso Rodriguez, Reed Krakoff, Prabal Gurung, Zac Posen, Maria Cornejo, Bibhu Mohapatra, Nanette Lepore, Wes Gordon and Preen’s Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi are among the designers who will be making the trip to the Beltway. Executives from Ralph Lauren and Talbots have also signed up.
But when asked about the event, several designers declined to comment or deferred any questions to FLOTUS’ press office. While a few in the New York crowd said they were keeping mum with respect to the First Lady’s wishes, others said their own inquiries about the event had yet to be answered.
One exception was Mary Alice Stephenson, who posted on her Facebook page that she was excited to be participating in Michelle Obama’s first Fashion Education Workshop at the White House. “As part of Mrs. Obama’s #REACHHIGHER initiative, this first-ever fashion education workshop will enlighten, educate and mentor the next generation of fashion leaders,” Stephenson gushed. “The First Lady’s goal is to provide a forum for the world’s leading fashion professionals to share their personal story and insight. I can’t wait to share this inspiring day with so many incredible young people and, thanks to social media, will also be posting special moments from this historic day with all of you! #FashionEdu #GLAM4GOOD.”
In response to an e-mail sent to FLOTUS frontwoman Maria Cristina González asking about the number of designer participants, the likelihood of any special performances and a few other routine matters, WWD received the press-pool breakout of the First Lady’s schedule for Oct. 3, 7 and 8. Once back from Boston; Bangor, Maine; Madison, Wis., and Chicago, Obama will host the workshop with “leading fashion professionals — from designers to magazine editors to fashion technologists — to show young people what it takes to succeed, and how important it is for the next generation to commit to their education.”
The designer-loving mom-in-chief plans to visit two of the five student workshops, which will be led by experts in their field. After the First Lady delivers her remarks in the East Room, there will be a live-streamed panel discussion “comprised of designers and experts.”
Once the high school and college students exit Wednesday, the designer crowd will no doubt be a lot looser at 6 p.m., when Obama welcomes them to a Celebration of Design cocktail party.
The First Lady, however, will not be winging it to New York for another design extravaganza Thursday night — the 15th anniversary of the Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Awards. Last week, she hosted another East Wing affair, welcoming NDA winners to a luncheon. Rodriguez will be doing double duty as this year’s Fashion Design honoree — he has also created the costumes that the Stephen Petronio Company will wear to perform an excerpt from “Locomotor (2014)” for the Pier Sixty crowd.