OSCAR TAKE TWO: First Lady Michelle Obama’s apparent fondness for European designer labels has raised a few eyebrows Stateside, especially in Manhattan’s Garment Center, where business is through the basement and some American fashion flag-waving could only help the cause.
When informed that the First Lady had worked a few Europeans into her wardrobe of late — Alaïa, Moschino, Etro — Oscar de la Renta said at his bridal show Monday: “Our industry right now is having a very difficult time. I think it would be great if the First Lady dressed in American styles. There are a lot of talented people here too.”
This story first appeared in the April 7, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Some of De la Renta’s comments in WWD last week drew a fair amount of media heat, in particular a criticism of Obama’s choice of a black-and-white dress and cardigan to meet Queen Elizabeth II. But de la Renta said his critics chose to overlook the favorable things he said about Obama’s fashion sense. “Look, she has such great looks if she put on a potato sack, she would look great.”
While the European response to the First Lady has been practically giddy, a few naysayers emerged. Tyler Brûlé, for example, wrote in The Financial Times’ weekend edition, “…Someone needs to tell Michelle Obama that there’s a time and place for bare arms and it’s not on an early spring evening at a rather important global conference in London.”
Even pundits on Chris Matthews’ show Sunday weighed in on the First Lady’s style, praising her (inaccurately) for wearing J. Crew to meet the Queen. The cardigan she wore was actually from the French designer Azzedine Alaïa, which retails in the four-digit range compared with J. Crew’s $298 crystal constellation cardigan — or $650 for eBay shoppers as of Monday.
L&T PICKS UP LIZ: Five years after Lord & Taylor dropped the Liz Claiborne brand, the better-priced collection is back in favor with the retailer. L&T chief executive officer Brendan Hoffman confirmed now that the brand has relaunched with Isaac Mizrahi as its designer this spring, L&T — which dropped the brand in 2004 as the retailer tried to reposition itself more upscale – is “launching it in a big way in fall and hopes to have some limited doors this spring. For us it’s a brand that’s always resonated with our customer, and now that it’s been relaunched with Isaac, I’ve heard great things, and think it will be a great addition,” said Hoffman.
STILA SALE?: Reports are circulating throughout the market that a sale could be near for beauty brand Stila, founded by Jeanine Lobell in 1994 and owned by Sun Capital Partners since 2006. (The Estée Lauder Cos. owned the brand from 1999 to 2006.) The company’s Web site, stilacosmetics.com, has been under construction “for routine maintenance” with a note that orders placed on March 23 or March 24 might be canceled. Calls to the brand’s Glendale, Calif. headquarters — placed at 3 p.m. Pacific time — were answered with a recording noting the company’s normal business hours were from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Sun Capital Partners and Stila’s senior management, including chief executive Deanna Kangas, did not respond to calls for comment.