FIRST THINGS FIRST: When Michelle Obama visited London and other European cities earlier this year, she was greeted with front-page photos and rhapsodic editorials about her outfits. That was not the case in Moscow. Coverage was minimal and tended only to include reports on presidential meetings.

Even the Russian fashion industry isn’t that wowed by the First Lady. “Her clothes are modest and neutral,” was designer Denis Simachev’s muted reaction.

This story first appeared in the July 9, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Fashion insiders attribute the indifference to Obama’s outfits — favorites Jason Wu, Michael Kors and Narciso Rodriguez featured prominently on the Russian visit — to anti-Americanism. “It’s part of our state policy: America is our enemy, and everything about America is bad,” commented Irina Mikhailovskaya, the former editor of Elle Russia.

What’s more, Russian taste is for clothing a bit more, well, sparkly. “A lot of Russians think that when something shines, it’s beautiful,” said fashion historian Alexandre Vassiliev, with a hint of embarrassment.


American clients were as rare as smiling models during a subdued couture week, supplanted by more buyers from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia. “These are difficult times,” Susan Gutfreund said at Chanel on Tuesday, observing a marked drop in attendance from her compatriots. “It’s a different mood. My husband’s retired, but if he were running a publicly traded company, I would be concerned about being seen.”

Suzanne Saperstein, who has taken in most shows this week, said most of her couture buddies are making the rounds, with the notable exception of Becca Cason Thrash, who’s taking a course. Citing smaller shows and less showmanship, she suggested couture is simply going back to its showroom roots. “There’s always going to be someone that’s looking for that special outfit,” she shrugged.

HUSH HUSH: High jewelry is a secretive, cosseted world, and Louis Vuitton is a case in point. This week, the French firm quietly invited a handful of select magazine editors to have a preview of a few sets — the first by its new fine jewelry designer, Lorenz Bäumer — ahead of their official launch this fall. Vuitton plans to unveil the collection during Paris Fashion Week, with a party on Oct. 7, the same day as Vuitton’s fashion show.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Tommy Hilfiger is feathering a new nest in anticipation of the birth of a son in a few weeks. Hilfiger and his wife, Dee, are moving into a duplex apartment in the tower of New York’s Plaza Hotel this fall. The 6,000-square-foot apartment, on the top two floors, has sweeping views of both Central Park and Fifth Avenue. Dee is collaborating with interior designer Cindy Rinfret on the decor, which is being designed “with old-world flavor with a modern twist,” said Hilfiger. The space will house the designer’s art collection, as well as the couple’s expanding brood — with four bedrooms, a nursery and a nanny’s room.

Meantime, Hilfiger has another construction project under way. His new Fifth Avenue store, in the former Fortunoff space, will open in September. Hilfiger plans to throw a big opening party at the 20,000-square-foot store right after his fashion show on Sept. 17. “We’ll be closing fashion week and opening a new store,” he said.

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