Fashion designs for Obama

Susan Scafidi in Crain's, January 09, 2012

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The new year has only just begun, but several fashion designers are already pledging their support for President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection. On Thursday, several New York-based designers will launch a fundraising effort called Runway to Win.

The initiative will sell the specially-branded wares of 22 designers, including Tracy Reese, Jason Wu and Tory Burch, on the website RunwayToWin.com. Items will include t-shirts, tote-bags, scarves and wristlets, all created for the reelection campaign. All proceeds from sales will go to the Obama Victory Fund, according to a campaign official. Last week, a post promoting the initiative appeared on the president's campaign blog.

News of the fundraising program was first reported by Women's Wear Daily.

In 2008, designers made a similar effort to raise money for Mr. Obama's campaign. This year's initiative is the brainchild of Vogue Editor and fashion mogul Anna Wintour, according to a spokeswoman for the magazine. Vogue is not involved with the initiative.

“As designers continue to embrace their roles as celebrities rather than humble tailors and seamstresses, it's not surprising that political endorsements are a next step,” said Susan Scafidi, academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University's School of Law, noting that it's always been common for Hollywood actors and actresses to support political candidates.

But as far as fashion policy goes, the Obama administration has not made much headway in the last three years. Ms. Scafidi noted that there still is no new intellectual property protection for fashion designs. Copycat retailers, selling designs at a mere fraction of the price of high-end and contemporary designers, are continually popping up, taking a heavy toll on the market.

However, though her husband might not have altered the fashion landscape, First Lady Michelle Obama certainly drew attention to the trade by wearing designs by Mr. Wu, Narciso Rodriguez and Isabel Toledo.