The First Lady may not be outright talking about fashion but her choices for global photo-ops are in full support of American designers.
Biden wore a navy Italian silk and wool jacquard blazer and coordinating dress from Lippes when she and the President had a private audience with Pope Francis Friday afternoon in Rome. On Saturday she donned a St. John chevron dress in amber from fall 2021 while attending the G20 Summit in Rome.
Lippes was appropriately enough in Washington, D.C., on Friday when he saw that the First Lady was sporting his New York-sewn looks. She had also donned one of his ensembles to meet Queen Elizabeth II earlier this year.
Reached Saturday afternoon, Lippes said he didn’t know in advance about Biden’s selection for the appearance in Vatican City. The designer found out “on the news like any good news junkie,” Lippes said. “I saw her greeting the head of the Vatican household or something like that. I was like, ‘Oh my God, is she actually going to wear this to meet the pope? Who knows.’”
The New York-based designer said he heard from “a million people,” including some of the shoppers who turned up Friday for his meet-and-greet at Nordstrom Tysons Corner. Biden’s choice for Friday’s papal meeting was right up there with such other career highlights as his eight-year run at Oscar de la Renta and appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show.
After having a private audience with Pope Francis, the first couple met Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his wife Serena at Chigi Palace, and later the First Lady was scheduled to host her French counterpart Brigitte Macron. The First Lady described the café visit with Macron as “two friends, together, just like sisters,” according to a pool press report.
She need not have worried about the Lippes sheath cinching her waist. Asked what they ate and drank, Biden said, “Well, practically nothing.”
Lippes praised her American-centered designer choices. He said, “Dr. Biden seems to be supporting some of the smaller, and in particular the New York-based designers, and looking really great and polished. For our industry, this is such an important statement. It’s hard to get on a stage like that. You can’t. You can’t buy that. The hardest thing in our industry today is getting your name out there and competing with the super brands who everyone knows and obviously has a marketing budget. It’s just great for American fashion. [By wearing] Markarian, us, Brandon Maxwell. she really is championing these American designers and also the big guys in America.”
Speculating that it is “thought-out,” Lippes addressed whether Biden’s team should be more vocal about speaking about fashion, which they said they would not be addressing, at a time when job security and the ailing industry are crucial matters. “I think she is talking about American fashion by her choices. That’s all that needs to be done. That’s the most important thing — exposure. It’s not the talk. There’s no question in my mind from watching her with the clothes she chooses that she is a champion of American fashion,” he said.
The $2,250 blazer and a similar $2,450 sheath that Jill Biden wore Friday are part of Lippes’ soon-to-be-shipped resort collection. “A number of” shoppers preordered the blazer at Friday’s Nordstrom event. Lippes offered, “Maybe it was just a great look, too.” Others will be able to find the ensemble in a week or so in his first Brookfield Place store in New York, among other outposts. Even before Biden’s papal choice, sales there were triple what was planned, despite many surrounding office towers remaining vacant, Lippes said. Houston and Dallas are two other cities where he is interested in opening new stores.
His company’s annual sales are estimated to be upward of $20 million. In addition to a new jewelry line, Lippes’ new tabletop line is available via OKA, which has two new locations in Texas. That collection is going to be expanded, Lippes said. Other licensing projects — “really great, exciting, nondelusional” ones — are in the works, Lippes said.
Having been on the road two weeks, Lippes returned to his home in the Berkshires Friday night. “I was home with my partner and my dog. I was like, ‘This is kind of really good.’ That was my celebration. Maybe I’m getting old,” Lippes said.
The designer and his partner Alexander Farnsworth have a side gig — the THC company Farnsworth Fine Cannabis. Lippes described that business as “quite extraordinary. It’s such a different business. It’s fun to be involved with. My real contributions are the design of the store [in Great Barrington, MA.] and the product. We’re understaffed. Sitting at the front desk on Saturdays, I have helped people from 21 to 91. It is the most incredible thing. People come in [and say], ‘I have waited my whole life to do this legally,’” Lippes said. “So it’s really been awful fulfilling. My partner in life is Alexander Farnsworth. He’s really the lead of that business.”
Other American designers may soon be getting some international publicity. President Biden and the First Lady are at the G-20 and will be off to Scotland for the United Nations climate summit, COP26, where the President will deliver a key address.