With the news of Ikram Goldman's upcoming Legend of Fashion honor comes a series of reports that the Chicago boutique owner is no longer Michelle Obama's unofficial stylist, and that the first lady might be taking wardrobe advice from White House aide Meredith Koop.
The New York Times' Cathy Horyn slipped, "For what it's worth, I hear that Ikram Goldman, the Chicago retailer, is no longer directly involved with Mrs. Obama's wardrobe, since December," in at the end of her "About That McQueen Dress" article. And Mrs. O blog has the most detailed account of all -- in a post late last month, Mary Tomer wrote:
Mrs. Obama's repertoire of designers has expanded drastically in recent months, to include new names such Dries Van Noten, Marc Jacobs, Roksanda Ilincic, and even vintage Norman Norell. A diverse wardrobe is growing more diverse, and fast. Ikram Goldman has been known to source clothing for the First Lady from designers not always carried in her boutique, but Chicago is a fashion market of "exclusives," and it's unlikely that Ms. Goldman would secure pieces from designers carried by her competitors. For example, Blake, another high-end store in Chicago, carries Dries Van Noten and Roksanda Ilincic. These designers are not stocked at Ikram. Which raises the question: if not Ikram, who secured pieces from these designers for the First Lady?
One answer might be Meredith Koop. In April 2010, Politico.com ran a short, unnoticed piece on Mrs. Obama's "secret style weapon." Koop is a 28-year-old White House aide rumored to play a "pivotal role" in the First Lady's style. At this point, little else is known about her position. But why the move away from Ikram? Logistics and location are one possibility. It may simply be more convenient to have someone Washington-based at the helm of Mrs. Obama's complex wardrobe. Robin Givhan offered another possible hint with this November 2009 tweet: "Ikram in DC 'selling Michelle dresses she can't afford.' so sayeth a source."
So what do we know about Koop? Not a whole lot. In the aforementioned Politico piece, Kiki Ryan and Amie Parnes write that Koop works in the East Wing and that they first heard of her from a hairstylist who worked with Michelle. Koop's Facebook page shows that she's a stylish blonde, her activities and interests are "Barack Obama" and she's friends with Ikram.
One thing's for sure -- the First Lady will probably keep mum about Koop, in any case. She really never formally acknowledged Ikram's hand in her fashion choices, leaving it up to her chosen designers to drop Goldman's name. And likewise, Ikram never discussed her relationship with the White House, except to confirm that Michelle shopped at her store for years.