WHITE HOUSE ABSENTIA: First Lady Michelle Obama, quoting Miles Davis, summed up her feeling about national design on Wednesday, while inadvertently giving a potential reason why Rodarte’s designers did not show up for a White House ceremony in their honor. “The great jazz musician Miles Davis — one of my husband’s favorites — once said, ‘Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there,’” said Obama. “I think that is pretty much a good description of what each of you does every day: You’re playing what’s not there.”

Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy, winners of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards fashion design category, were no-shows at the ceremony hosted by Obama, which also paid tribute to other design fields and winners who were able to attend. A spokesman for the Mulleavys, who launched their fashion line in 2005, sent an early-morning e-mail that said the designers “had a change of plans” and could not come to the event. The spokesman later added the sisters “had a family obligation to attend to in Los Angeles” as way of further explanation but did not provide details.

This story first appeared in the July 22, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Meanwhile, Obama told the audience that designers have “spent their lives pushing boundaries,” adding “we know a little about boundary pushing.” Obama has pushed a few boundaries herself with her sartorial choices since her husband, Barack Obama, became the first African-American to become president in 2008. Once again she gave a nod to American fashion designers Wednesday, donning a flowing, dark pink two-piece Isabel Toledo ensemble adorned with an oversize embellished pin.

TO AIR IS HUMAN: Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. is placing some limits on its founder and chief executive officer, but they’re unlikely to slow Ralph Lauren down very much. Beginning this fiscal year, the reimbursement Lauren can receive for travel on his personal aircraft, previously not stipulated, is capped at $200,000, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. During the year ended April 3, Lauren received a total reimbursement of $558,376 for all personal travel, and the amount attributable to his own aircraft wasn’t specified in the company’s definitive proxy. In a slightly different twist on the same theme, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. ceo Mike Jeffries in April agreed to limit himself to $200,000 worth of personal travel on the company plane or reimburse A&F for the difference.

O CANADA: Leave it to Alexander Wang to inject a little bit of downtown New York into Tuesday’s trunk show and PA at Holt Renfrew’s Bloor Street flagship. Wang, in his first trip to Canada, arrived with a custom-made tent in tow. “It’s a mini installation for our brand,” he said. “We wanted to bring that Alexander Wang experience with us to the cities that we visit, so people know about our campaigns, our videos.” The tent currently houses fluorescent lights and a flat-screen TV, but Wang has big plans for the eight-by-ten black canvas encampment, which first made its debut at Trunk-a-Palooza at Barneys New York in April and will accompany the designer to other cities. “We’ll add things along the way,” he says. “You know that trunk you travel around with and put stickers of all the places you’ve visited? This is our version of that.” For starters, Wang plans to add furniture: blow-up stools and benches — “everything has to pack and collapse,” he explains — that will resemble the leather furniture in his TriBeCa offices. (No word on whether the Wang-designed inflatables will one day make it to the sales floor.) As for the meet-and-greet itself, Wang notes that “some girl asked me to sign her Chloé sunglass case, and another person brought in gum wrappers for me to autograph. Actually, it was three friends, and they ripped the wrapper into three pieces for me to sign.”

GIRL POWER: MAC Cosmetics said Wednesday that the company is partnering with DC Comics’ Wonder Woman to create a limited edition color cosmetics collection featuring the illustrated superhero. Set for a spring 2011 launch at all MAC locations worldwide, the lineup is expected to include lipsticks, eye shadows, blush and nail polish ranging in price from $13 to $49.50. (No word on whether metal-deflecting bracelets are part of the collection.)


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