She’s the First Lady of the United States–and the First Lady of Fashion–with a style influence so strong it’s boosting not only brand exposure, but bottom lines of designers and retailers. According to the Harvard Business Review, Michelle Obama has created $2.7 billion in value for 29 companies simply by donning their clothing.
A New York University professor’s findings indicate that in 189 public appearances, Mrs. Obama’s fashion picks have contributed to increasing stock prices–and profits–for companies and designers including Isabel Toledo, Naeem Khan, Saks Fifth Avenue and Target. After her Dec. 10, 2009 appearance wearing Nina Ricci and Calvin Klein at President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, companies associated with the outfit, including Macy’s, Nordstrom and Dillard’s, saw $772 million in total gains over just two days.
Obama has become famous worldwide for her style savvy, unguided by a stylist or paid endorsement, blending couture designs and moderately priced brands–making achieving the “Mrs. O” look more attainable for the average fashionista.
With such a market influence, some may wonder how the “Mrs. O” factor has affected Black consumers, whose spending on apparel products and services is at $27 billion, and Black designers, who often struggle for recognition in the fashion industry. Amnau Eele, co-founder of the Black Artists Association, expressed her concern in a January 2009 Women’s Wear Daily article, questioning the lack of inclusion of African-American designers in Mrs. Obama’s collection , and urging the first lady to wear their clothing.
Since the inauguration, the Michelle Obama’s iconic style has actually had several contributions by Black fashion industry talent, including day frocks by Tracy Reese; sustainable jewelry by rising star Monique Pean; and her signature chin-length bob done by hairstylist Johnny Wright.
Other notable people of color whose designs Obama has worn include Taiwanese designer Jason Wu; Cuban-American Narciso Rodriguez; Cuban-American Isabel Toledo; Tunisian-born designer Azzedine Alaïa; Prabal Gurung, a Nepalese-American designer; and Thakoon Panichgul, a Tailand-born designer.