Fashion’s Finest Head to the White House for Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama at the Ribbon Cutting and Press Preview for Anna Wintour Costume Center and Charles James: Beyond Fashion COSTUME INSTITUTE Exhibition. Photo by Joe Schildhorn /

Fashion’s finest headed to Washington yesterday as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Reach Higher” Initiative which invited 16 high school students–Parsons Scholars (a program that provides art, design, and fashion education to underprivileged youth) to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Gathered amongst many of the greatest successes in the industry: Anna Wintour introduced Michelle Obama. Eva Chen, Phillip Lim, Diane von Furstenberg, Maria Cornejo, Jason Wu, and Jenna Lyons and more fashion figures were also in attendance. The students received career advice in the rare form of speeches from the First Lady of the U.S.A., and the First Lady of fashion, Ms. Wintour.

“Fashion is about so much more than just a pretty pair of pumps or the perfect hemline.  For so many people across the country, it is a calling, it is a career, and it’s a way they feed their families.  So that’s why we thought it was important to bring the industry to the White House, and to share it with all of you who are coming up in the next generation,” Ms. Obama said, in a speech excerpt that actually got me a little teary.

The young designers we’ll surely soon be clamoring for were set to task to decorate the East Room with 600 recycled books, which were transformed into table centerpieces, napkin rings, a backdrop for the speakers, and (my personal fave) a lectern specifically designed to never obstruct views of Mrs. Obama’s dress. Appropriately, the dress was an incredible student-designed piece by Natalya Koval of FIT, who clearly ran with the opportunity to show off those famous arms.

Sounds like it was a truly special occasion! #FOMO

Some of our favorite Reach Higher moments from Instagram:



Jackie, @prabalgurung, and me at the White House. #fashionedu

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Thank you for your lovely words @flotus @michelleobama today has been amazing. #fashionedu @reachhigher2020 @whitehouse Regram @bibicornejoborthwick View on Instagram


had to do it!- #whitehouse #31philliplim #fashionedu

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“We want you to see firsthand that a solid education and the willingness to work hard is really at the core of what it’s going to take to achieve your goals: education and hard work.” —The First Lady to #FashionEdu Thank you to all the leaders in the fashion industry who encouraged the students at today’s Fashion Education Workshop to #ReachHigher in their education. View on Instagram



Fashion group at the White House ! Zac , Vera, Edward, Naomi, Lazaro ! @edward_enninful @iamnaomicampbell @lazaro @zac_posen Wonderful evening ! Love Diane @michelleobama #fashionedu

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A very inspiring speech from our First Lady ! @MichelleObama #fashionedu @reachhigher2020 Love Diane

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The Cost of Sustainable Fashion

This past week in NYC, The Washington Post‘s Robin Givhan hosted a panel discussion, called “Voices in American Fashion,” between Calvin Klein’s Francisco Costa, Maria Cornejo and Yoehlee Teng. Fashionologie took notes of the conversation, which covered celebrity designers, real-sized women and the alienation women thanks to fashion magazines. (Cornejo herself admits to feeling this way, saying, “I don’t even want to look at them. Anybody can make a 15-year-old model look good. It takes a lot to make a 47-year-old look good. There’s just this really big disconnect.”). The discussion got more interesting when the topic moved to sustainable fabrics.

Or, more specifically, to their affordability. “Only big companies like Target and Wal-Mart could [make it more affordable]. And if they did it, it would trickle down to us,” Cornejo says of the high price tag attached to most sustainable fabrics. So, as long as independent designers are the majority of brand heads committing themselves to using solely locally grown or sustainable fabrics and forgoing cutting costs by utilizing cheap materials or means of labor, it’s an uphill battle. But, if demand is increased exponentially, price points drop and even more individuals involved in the fabric game may begin working towards a greener practice. Fashion may never be completely sustainable, but working to promote better, more ethical fabrics is surely one step every major retailer should be taking. While H&Ms newly launched organic line may have proven not totally ‘organic,’ its fabrics were grown without hazardous chemicals and uses recycled polyesters. It’s a move in the right direction.

Why Men Have It Made For 2010

Roland Mouret is doing it. So is Ruffian, whose lower-priced line for guys will debut at Macy’s this spring. Add Matthew Williamson and Zero + Maria Cornejo to the list too. Now comes news that John Galliano, the eccentric, long locked designer behind Dior who made a name for himself designing clothing for women, will be getting into the men’s wear game as well.

Galliano is launching a men’s line under his namesake label. According to an Ittierre spokesperson, “the target consumers are ‘trendsetting, extravagant, adventurous’.” Given Galliano’s personal style (for which words like lavish and over-the-top can be a vast understatement), don’t expect the sleek, extremely slim and often monochromatic styles like those for which the men’s side of Dior is synonymous. The collection is set to debut on Jan. 18 at men’s fashion week in Paris. While seeing what Galliano has in store will surely be a treat, let’s just hope the catwalks are spared to particular budding man fashion trends come spring.

Maria Cornejo’s Latest & Where the ‘Beef!’ Is

Maria Cornejo — a favorite of the First Lady and arbiter of feminine yet distinctly modern styles, not to mention flats — is introducing something for men this spring. According to The Cut, “the designer first previewed four unisex menswear looks at her Zero + Maria Cornejo spring 2010 runway show in September, and the response was so positive that she expanded her men’s offerings for the season.” The collection will include “a printed scoop-neck T-shirt, navy rain jacket, sheer brown sweater, and tailored black pants — as well as drawstring wool shorts, cotton fleece blazers, and cotton mesh knits.” Also to be included in the mix: a plaid print which hits Cornejo’s namesake NYC boutique and No.8b come mid-January.

Meanwhile, Forever 21 and Karl Lagerfeld aren’t the only proponents of print over digital. Meet the latest men’s fashion title to launch on the scene, Beef!, which Magestic calls “a curious new offering from Guhner and Jahr, one of Europe’s biggest publishing groups.” Although entirely in German, Magestic offers a translation of what’s in store for Beef! lovers. Essentially it’s “like Esquire, but with meat instead of suits: clean design, good illustration and photography, four different kinds of paper (all thick and matte), original content ideas, and a lot of ‘what modern man simply has to know’.” Well, the latter is up for debate considering this translates to “teaching 30-something advertising executives how to skin a rabbit, how to distinguish the different odours (and their meanings) of a wine gone bad, and that the world’s best whisky comes not from Scotland, but from Japan.”

Maria Cornejo Outfits Models in Flats as Protest Against Patriarchy

image2009 has been the year of the model tumble (from Prada during Spring 09 presentations to the three falls on the catwalk at Hérvé Leger Fall 09 this past week); fashion show falls have been sprouting up as a direct result of fashion’s trend towards sky-high heels. For designer Maria Cornejo, this meant a perfect opportunity to make a statement, which is exactly what she did with footwear for her Fall 09 fashion show for Fashion Week. At the collection presentation, which included “roomy plaid coats, hooded sweaters, leather accents, and skinny pants,” according to New York’s The Cut. And Cornejo opted to outfit her models in low wedges, or flats.

Considering the latter is basically unheard of on a runway, the move was without a doubt a statement. Of the six-inch-plus high-heel trend, Cornejo said: “It’s boys dressing women. I’m sorry — they don’t have to wear the fucking shoes. It’s quite abusive. Because, you know what? We have to run around and walk, and nobody has a chauffeur waiting for them outside. And it really pisses me off and makes me really angry because it’s that boys thing about making women into victims. You know, it’s not nice.” Who knew flats could carry such a powerful feminist message? And at Fashion Week no less.