It’s been almost three weeks since Donald Trump, ahem, trumped Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election. And while many anti Trump-ers have licked their wounds and found a way to carry on regardless, the same can’t be said for pro-Clinton designers in the fashion industry.
Last week French-born designer Sophie Theallet revealed that she would not be dressing incoming First Lady Melania Trump and urged her fellow designers to issue a similar boycott.
In an open letter shared to social media, the fashion designer stated that she can’t condone the discriminatory platforms on which Mrs Trump’s husband ran. “As one who celebrates and strives for diversity, individual freedom and respect for all lifestyles, I will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady,” she wrote. “The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by. I encourage my fellow designers to do the same.”
And some were more than happy to oblige. “I have no interest whatsoever in dressing Melania Trump… Personally, I’d rather put my energy into helping out those who will be hurt by [Donald] Trump and his supporters,” Marc Jacobs told Women’s Wear Daily.
Tom Ford has also revealed his intent to refuse to dress the first lady although his reasoning has less to do with politics and more to do with Melania’s appearance.
“I was asked to dress [Melania Trump] quite a few years ago and I declined,” he told The View. “She’s not necessarily my image.”
It’s a similar story amongst fashion publications who, having spent years religiously covering every outfit Michelle Obama wears, are now considering how to or even whether to feature Melania. One US company have apparently decided none of their publications will write about her style.
But isn’t this all a bit hypocritical? Making a stand against discrimination, by, er discriminating? Claiming to be against prejudice, but effectively being prejudiced about who they will offer their services to? Mmm.
The irony hasn’t gone unnoticed by some social media users. When People magazine shared the news of the First Lady designer boycott, some were quick to point out the hypocrisy.
“These people shout equality for all, yet they have no problem showing their own prejudices…what hypocrites…,” one user wrote.
“Theallet believes so strongly in tolerance that she won’t tolerate Melania Trump wearing her clothes,” added another.
And is it not somewhat unfair to boycott Melania because of the views of her husband and his party? We might not agree with Donald Trump or his opinions and policies, but does that mean we have the right to tarnish his wife with the same brush? Maybe we don’t like Donald Trump and the views he stands for, but does that mean we have the right to punish his wife?
Besides is it not a bit churlish to publicly refuse to support the new First Lady? The Trumps have been elected the First Family fair and square, so effectively refusing to ‘dress’ Melania is the fashion equivalent of throwing your toys out of the pram.
And if designers really can’t bring themselves to offer their style support, they could at least refuse to do so quietly. Releasing a very public letter to social media declaring their intentions to boycott and urging other designers to do the same, is a pretty low move. If a certain designer wants to refuse to dress Melania Trump, it is their right to do so, but trying to encourage others to do the same is a classic bully tactic last seen in the playground.
Thankfully, it seems not all fashion designers share the anti-Melania stance and some have stepped forward to offer their support to the incoming First Lady. The most high profile being Tommy Hilfiger who earlier this week urged his fellow fashion designers to put their political views to one side.
“I think Melania is a very beautiful woman and I think any designer should be proud to dress her,” he told Women’s Wear Daily.
“I don’t think people should become political about it. Everyone was very happy to dress Michelle [Obama] as well.”
Diane von Furstenberg, creator of the iconic wrap dress, agreed. “Melania deserves the respect of any first lady before her,” she told WWD. “Our role as part of the fashion industry is to promote beauty, inclusiveness, diversity. We should each be the best we can be and influence by our example.”
Thom Browne, another American designer, offered some more tentative support. “Out of respect for the position of the first lady of our United States, I would be honored to be considered to design for any first lady of the United States.”
Meanwhile Marcus Wainwright of American clothing company Rag & Bone told The New York Times: “It would be hypocritical to say no to dressing a Trump. If we say we are about inclusivity and making American manufacturing great again, then we have to put that before personal political beliefs.”
Carolina Herrera believes that this initial wave of defiance from some designers will eventually settle down and she herself would be reaching out to Melania within “two or three months”. The American designer who has dressed numerous first ladies told Business of Fashion she believes “everyone” will be dressing the president-elect’s wife because “she’s representing the United States.”
And the business side of things is worth mentioning, too. You’d think that dressing the First Lady would be a designer’s dream. Indeed, many have seen their businesses boom thanks to their designs being showcased on the world stage during Michelle Obama’s time in the White House. So, is refusing to dress someone so high profile therefore not tantamount to career suicide?
Indeed Melania herself is no stranger to the ‘Kate Middleton’ effect i.e. seeing the clothes she showcases sell out within minutes of her wearing them. The seemingly pointed Gucci pussy bow blouse she wore in the wake of Trump’s pussy grabbing scandal sold out on Net-A-Porter within hours.
And no doubt we will see a similar effect from January when she takes up her official role. Because Melania knows fashion and though she may not be dressed in Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs or the like, she will look great in other talented designers, who haven’t chosen to air their political views on the catwalk.
What are your views? Should designers refuse to dress Melania? Let us know @YahooStyleUK