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“Strike while the iron is hot” might well have been the driving force behind the strong, chic collection that Chicago designer Maria Pinto brought to New York on Friday for appointments. Michelle Obama’s first go-to fashion person, Pinto enjoyed a boost during Barack Obama¹s campaign. “She’s been a fabulous part of my life,” Pinto said of her longtime client, who has recently opted for other young designers, notably for the inauguration. However, Pinto doesn’t feel forgotten. “I think Michelle just comes from her heart,” Pinto said. “Like, ‘If I feel good in this dress, that’s what I’m going to wear today.'” Luckily for all of Pinto’s loyal ladies, the designer did not lose focus for fall. In fact, judging from her expanded evening offerings, the Obama buzz has helped her evolve beyond the great daywear for which she¹s known.

Not surprisingly, there were fabulous coats (“I’m a Chicagoan,” Pinto said, “so I can’t have enough”) in glossy alpaca and wool. Day dresses, meanwhile, were slim in the front with cocoon-like volume in back, a nod to Pinto¹s “continuous curves” theme. Subtle curves were also worked into evening, as in hand-embroidered tulle and silk bias cut gowns.

This story first appeared in the February 16, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The 90-piece collection wholesales from $400 to $1,200 and will be available at Takashimaya in New York and at the designer¹s Chicago boutique, though her wraps are sold at Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue. Whether any of it will make it into the First Lady¹s fall wardrobe remains to be seen. “We’ve reached out to her,” Pinto said. “But it’s not so urgent. I think she has a lot of other things on her agenda.”

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