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Nanette Lepore Headshot

The First Lady's Dress

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"Women, wear what you love. That's all you can say. That's my motto.
It's nice to have on a nice suit. But it's nicer to change a
generation, in terms of their health. It's a better use of my time to
focus on rallying this country around our military families. I mean,
there's so much that I hope to do in this role, that makes a
difference in people's lives."
-Michelle Obama

For more on this issue, read this.

Five years of raising awareness for New York's Garment Center have been rendered irrelevant by one statement. What Michelle Obama chooses to wear can save and create American jobs. Her influence on the American fashion industry does not detract from her agenda in the East Wing. The First Lady can support her causes and simultaneously support a valuable American industry and the thousands of people it employs. I wish she would rethink her statement.

As First Lady, Michelle Obama is the second most visible representative of the American people. She has done so much for American fashion already. The prime example is what she did by wearing Jason Wu to the Inauguration. With one simple choice, Michelle Obama catapulted the career of a young American designer and generated demand, business, awareness, and jobs for an American company. This decision put Jason Wu on the map.

I admire Michelle Obama's compassion and respect her work, and would like to see her continue wearing domestic brands on the international stage. Wearing that nice suit she mentioned can make a world of difference in people's lives. She can embrace her role as a fashion icon and use it to help an industry that is in danger of leaving our shores permanently.

Like all businesses in America, fashion needs support from its leadership. It's important for Americans to buy American-made products, and we look to our First Lady and the President to set that standard. When she wears an American designer to a high profile international event she communicates to the world that the American fashion industry is significant and relevant. That makes a difference.