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The Fashion Whip: Who Waves The Flag For American Fashion?

Posted: 05/29/2012 4:49 pm

The Fashion Whip is a political style column in The Huffington Post written by Lauren A. Rothman, founder of Styleauteur, and HuffPost reporter Christina Wilkie.

WASHINGTON -- It's that wonderful, Americana-soaked month between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, the perfect time for a Fashion Whip tribute to the denizens of the nation's capital who do the most to support the endangered species that is real American fashion.

By "real American," we mean homegrown designers and manufacturers, the smaller-scale operations like Nanette Lepore, Lela Rose, and Nicole Miller, which continue to thrive in a tough market dominated by brands manufactured overseas.

Around Washington, there are two kinds of fashion champions, those who wear it and those who legislate for it.

In Congress, the interests of American fashion are visually represented by a broad range of legislators, from the notably fashionable Manhattan Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D), whose blowout is always perfect, to the tall Colorado Rep. Mark Udall (D), whose bolo tie rises above trends.

Udall and Rep. Ed Royce (R), who represents the scantily clad, but very chic, Orange County, Calif. (while, no doubt wisely, eschewing both extremes himself), are co-sponsors of the proposed Small Business Lending Enhancement Act of 2011, which would expand the availability of credit for small businesses, like clothing boutiques and emerging designers.

Another bipartisan, pro-fashion pair, noted more for the thrust of their bills than the cut of their suits, consists of North Carolina Reps. David Price (D) and Howard Coble (R), co-sponsors of the ATTIRE Act, which stands for "American Textile Technology Innovation and Research for Exportation." The bill would help to fund research and innovation in the U.S. textile industry, while promoting greater exports. Of course, the Tarheel State has a very, very soft spot for textile manufacturers, but the ATTIRE Act could give the rest of the U.S. fashion industry more choice among American fabrics.

No one else in Washington, however, has done more for American fashion over the past three years than first lady Michelle Obama, whose willingness to wear the work of emerging designers at major national and international events has put the spotlight on a whole new class of American talent. Jason Wu, Isabel Toledo and Naeem Kahn have all seen their brand recognition skyrocket as soon as the first lady elegantly debuted their designs.

Which American designer do you think deserves a first-lady fashion boost? Let us know in the comments.

Follow Fashion Whip, @christinawilkie and @styleauteur on Twitter.

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