News Analysis

Thursday 28 August 2014

Rejoice at four more years of Michelle's elegance and grace

Published 10/11/2012 | 17:00

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WITH just over half of the American public delighted with itself and its choice of president this week, there is much rejoicing in fashion. Four more years of modern style icon Michelle Obama, is serious business for designers, media and fashion aficionados alike. Like Britain's style ambassador, Kate Middleton, the First Lady's every move, and what she's wearing while she moves is documented in great detail and kicks-back website hits, PR and sales to those who cover her figuratively, and literally.

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'The Kate Effect' is the buzz phrase of 2012, succinctly giving a moniker to the spoils of the phenomenon that is the global obsession with what the Duchess of Cambridge wears. Shoes, dresses, coats and clutch bags have often sold out within hours of Middleton doing her official hand-shaking duties in a particular ensemble. Though Kate pays for every single garment and accessory, her inadvertent but unavoidable patronage has elevated brands such as LK Bennett (the nude shoe maker), Orla Kiely, Reiss and Jaeger to the global fashion stage.

Only last week, Jane Shepherdson, the CEO of British high-end high-street retailer Whistles, questioned the actual impact of 'The Kate Effect' on a business's fortunes in an interview with 'Business of Fashion'. On the surface Shepherdson seemed grateful for the global exposure of Kate's choice of a blouse by the brand for her engagement portrait, and most recently a dress for the Olympics opening ceremony, but clearly stated that there were no real tracked sales associated with her selections as the pieces were already selling well, or were archived.

In a February 2012 piece for the ' New York Times', Bee Shyuan Chang contacted 16 designers who have dressed Michelle in collaboration, or by surprise.

There was no such writing off of the commercial bounce from the exposure her profile provides for established and young designers. Cushnie et Ochs, Prabal Gurung and Naeem Kahn each gushed about how Obama's endorsement has taken their businesses to the next level, and beyond. The biggest star of the First Closet, Jason Wu -- whose career skyrocketed as a result of her love of his work -- declined to comment out of respect for his professional relationship with the White House.

The notion that Michelle is more influential than Kate is a no-brainer. Kate is a princess -- a pretty face whose classic, conservative style is a foil for the trashy styling trends in pop culture. She embodies a modern-day fairy tale and women get their credit cards out for a piece of the fantasy. 'The Michelle Effect' is a super-sized, more mature version of Middleton's sway.

She is the embodiment of the 'now' woman -- an educated working mother with a chemistry-rich relationship, a curvy and athletic physique, and practical, yet glamorous, personal style. A powerful public speaker, she also gabs about her marriage with the press like she's gossiping to a neighbour.

This poster gal for the American fashion industry has an accessible style and grace that women globally want to emulate one A-line skirt, kitten heel and cardigan at a time. Her style of easy separates, low heels and colourful, stacked jewellery is so perfect for a modern working woman who wants to look professional with personality.

No political commentator would discount the role 'Shelly-O' played in her husband's re-election. She has injected a warmth and class into the White House not experienced since the public were robbed of Jackie by assassination and Onassis.

The 48-year-old mother-of-two connects with the American people in what she wears, how she speaks and how she affably glides through her public and home duties. The president's critics may never be silenced but no one can argue with the significant role the Mom-In-Chief plays in comforting and motivating a post-war nation.

On election night, she recycled a previously worn look by US fashion legend, Michael Kors. This move was a genuine message to the people she serves: 'A lot of people are hurting financially. This is not the time to flash the cash. We've got work to do'. The Obama children Sasha and Malia turned out in flat ballet shoes and knee-length skirts -- a far cry from the young teens of the other First Family, the Kardashians.

The second Obama term is a chance for Barack to fulfil his promise of change. One thing that will certainly be delivered is four more years of Shelly-O -- an undeniable force of inspiration and comfort.

Irish Independent

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