There are few icons that bring the political and fashion worlds together quite like Michelle Obama. Today, both are abuzz about the White House confirmation of the First Lady’s stylist, Meredith Koop. Koop worked as an assistant to Ikram Goldman, who previously held the role of dressing Mrs. Obama. Though Goldman knew Michelle for years back in Chicago, the two parted ways earlier this year. Many speculate that the two fell out, but as with most aspects of dressing Mrs. Obama, mums the word.
Designers are often hesitant to speak about their dealings with the White House, so it’s hard to know the exact details of how the First Lady’s wardrobe really gets put together. In an interview with The Washington Post, designer Rachel Roy refused to comment on the details of how the actual transactions took place:
Asked whether Koop had arranged the deals, Roy clammed up.
“I think that, out of privacy for the first lady and the family, I would prefer not to say who I deal with,” she said, adding only that she worked closely with the White House. When told that the White House had identified Koop as the first lady’s adviser in wardrobe matters, Roy still declined to comment. When asked how she received payment for the couture items prepared for the first lady, the designer said, “That’s not something that I want to talk about” and deferred to her publicist on the line. “Elise?!” she said.
Roy isn’t the only one who’s being discreet, most designers refuse to comment on their dealings with the First Lady’s team. However, according to Koop’s hairdresser, the White House usually purchases garments and then brings the selection to the First Lady for approval. If she chooses not to keep it, the item is returned. And for the pieces the First Lady loves, she pays out of pocket. Her own pocket that is.
Dressing Michelle Obama is an operation in and of itself, and few are brought into the First Lady’s circle of trust. Koop, 29, worked as Goldman’s assistant after graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2003. Don’t try to Facebook her though. After receiving press inquiries on her role at the White House, Koop promptly deleted her account. The young aide wears many hats, dressing the First Lady for both special events and her day-to-day duties. She apparently also plays a big role in picking out outfits for the younger Obamas, Sasha and Malia.
Not only is Koop constantly searching for the First Lady’s next look, apparently she is also a bargain hunter. According to the Post, Koop purchases garments for the First Lady and negotiates discounts on her behalf as well. And not surprisingly, most designers are willing to take a little something off to the top. It’s all worth it–just one shot of Mrs. Obama in a stunning outfit can catapult a brand or designer to the heights of fame. Case in point: J. Crew and Jason Wu.
While the process of styling the First Lady may seem overly-classified, it is indeed a massive business. Financial analysts estimate that Michelle has pumped up the value of the brands she wears by $2.7 billion. That kind of increase has many designers willing to zip it up and keep it closed.
While many in the fashion world are vying for a chance to have the First Lady wear their garments, some in the political world say taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be going to pay the salary of a personal stylist. Tell us, Clutchettes how do you feel?