With only four days’ notice, and a pre-fall collection due the day of the event, the New York-based, Canadian-born designer ricocheted around to tie everything up. While Michelle Obama is greeting sellout coliseum crowds for her “Becoming” book tour, the Clintons faced a 3,000-person crowd in Montreal, one stop in their 13-city speaking tour.
Taylor’s prep work was tough, partly since she couldn’t find any video footage of the Clintons in an onstage chat. The Toronto-bred designer went to school in Montreal and she traveled with President Clinton on a nine-day trip to Kenya and Tanzania in 2015 and got to the know the family. Taylor went as a Clinton Foundation partner, according to a spokesman for the designer. She also traveled to Haiti in 2014 on another trip with the organization.
The designer said she is friendly with Chelsea Clinton and sees the former first couple from time to time. “Honestly, I was shocked to be asked and so grateful. I had never moderated anything in my life so it was really terrifying. I had four days to prepare and Wednesday morning the pre-fall collection was due. We finished, did our style-outs and jumped on a flight and hoped there were no weather delays, obviously,” Taylor said.
During the 75-minute talk, Taylor said she asked four or five questions about “critical, political discussions” like climate change and the former Secretary of State opened up about decision-making regarding Osama bin Laden during the Obama administration. But the couple’s softer side was her focus. She wrapped up with a fire-round finale with prompters like, “Tell us about your first date” and “Who said I love you first?” Their first impressions of each other at Yale University were Taylor’s favorite answers. The designer recalled, “She said, ‘A burly man with a big red beard,’ and he said, ‘A woman who had such an intense force of nature and stare that she could scare a polar bear.’”
Favorite food from the White House? His was chicken enchiladas and hers was “everything,” Taylor said. Chelsea’s 16th birthday at Camp David — a paintball party — was tops for favorite first family memory. They also praised Canada’s structured health care and ways the U.S. could learn from its economic system. They did not comment on the current administration directly, Taylor said. Hillary Clinton was not asked if she plans to run in 2020. Taylor said she hadn’t wanted to ask. “I would ask open-ended questions and would let them guide where they felt most comfortable being,” she said.
All in all, Taylor said, “They really shared an important message of resilience and strength. They tied it together through what they learned from their mothers to what they had to endure through their political careers until now. I think it really motivated people to realize that you can keep pushing forward and there will always be something great ahead. You could feel the optimism.”
On location shooting her pre-fall look book in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Taylor said she will probably work this weekend. “I feel like I need at some point to find a bed. It will come soon.”