While mainstream media and social media continue to buzz about Melania Trump’s decision to auction off a wide-brimmed white hat that she wore on a state visit to benefit charity, her stylist Hervé Pierre is on board with that decision.
The decision by a former first lady to personally hold a 14-day auction for three items with an opening bid of $250,000 has garnered national media attention and has sparked criticism. A portion of the proceeds are earmarked for charity that support her “Be Best” initiative, by providing foster care children access to computer science and technology education. The organizations that will provide those services were not identified on Trump’s site as of Thursday afternoon.
Trump wore the white lid for a 2018 state visit of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte to the White House. It is being auctioned by Trump on her site as part of the “Head of State” collection, with a letter of authenticity from Trump, an Antoine Coulon watercolor of her wearing the hat and an NFT of the painting. Throughout her husband’s presidency, Trump was routinely scrutinized and often blasted for her fashion choices. Interestingly, her stylist often shopped retail as opposed to working with designers for custom styles for global photo ops, as Michelle Obama’s stylist and others had in the past.
In an interview Thursday, Pierre said: “I’m really happy that this hat that was for the state visit for France is having a second life. I’m really hoping that it will be successful and they will be able to raise money for all the causes, whether it is foster care or whatever it is that she’s doing. If it can help something, I think it’s a wonderful idea. I don’t know why we criticize if we just do something good. If it supports a good cause, good for her.”
Pierre said, “To give a piece of clothing another life and to use a piece of clothing for a good cause or a charity, why not? I applaud this. It is the first time this is being done. I think it’s nice.”
Pierre, a designer in his own right who spent a good part of his career at Carolina Herrera, is based in New York. Born in France, he became a U.S. citizen in August 2016 — a few months before he met Trump and started working as her stylist. Pierre designed the white hat with the same white fabric of the Michael Kors suit that the first lady wore on that occasion. “I remember that I really wanted to have this hat and it was a fun project to do,” Pierre said, adding that the hat in his mind conjured up images of Yves Saint Laurent’s hats from the ’80s and ’90s, as well as beautiful Parisienne women.
Rather than visions of Catherine Deneuve, many on social media at that time compared the wide-brimmed hat to ones worn by Beyoncé and Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope character on the television show “Scandal.” Pierre was surprised by such interpretations, but says it is what it is.
“With the critics and the comments, it’s like when a collection is reviewed. Afterward, when it’s out in the public, in the air, on social media and in the press, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. It’s kind of bizarre, because you are not the creator anymore. It’s very interesting. When a designer creates something, the interpretation has nothing to do with the source of the making and the inspiration. Whether it’s art, a piece of clothing, choreography — whatever it is, afterward, it belongs to the public. That is also the beauty in a way. You make your own judgments. With your own sensibility, you react to a piece of art, to a painting, to a sculpture or a piece of clothes,” he said. “Sometimes, unfortunately, it hurts. When the interpretation is completely off of what I had in mind, I say, ‘Oh, damnit.’”
Pierre said: “For a state visit that was very formal, the hat was very regal and completely appropriate. For that, I reacted more like a French person. For me, it was a nice way to pay homage. She was wearing an American designer [Michael Kors] and a Franco-American designer for the hat. It was white. The Christian Louboutin shoes were blue and the soles were red. So you had the red, white and blue altogether — the red was really by accident.”
Describing the color combination “as not serious, just cute,” Pierre said, “I alway quote Mrs. Herrera: ‘Fashion, at one point, also has to be for the eyes and not always completely studied under the microscope.’”
Uncertain which charities will benefit from the auction, Pierre said raising money for good causes is part of American society. Recalling his initial reluctance to become a U.S. citizen, the designer said he used to always make fun of himself. “I thought it’s not really fair for this country to have someone who speaks English like Maurice Chevalier. Then I thought on the other hand, ‘I live in the city. I love this country deeply. I pay my taxes. I really enjoy New York. Why not? I think I deserve to become an American.’ And I was very proud. I was the only French person in a group of 200 to become an American that day…you put your hand on your heart. You get your little flag.”
Pierre said he continues to consult with Trump and is very happy about that. Although he continues to work in fashion with a few personal customers, he spends half of his time working in home decor. As for whether Trump is interested in launching a clothing line, Pierre declined comment.