US politics divides even fashion designers

Local | 16 Feb 2017

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the new president of the United States, we see an American fashion industry politically divided as never before. On the red carpet, journalists have been curious to know from designers: will you dress the first lady?

Those that say they would include Tommy Hilfiger, Marcus Wainwright of Rag and Bone and Diane von Furstenberg, who says: "Melania deserves the respect of any first lady before her."

But there are a lot who are vocal about not being willing to dress her too, among them Tom Ford, Derek Lam and Marc Jacobs, who says: "I have no interest whatsoever in dressing Melania Trump. Personally, I'd rather put my energy into helping out those who will be hurt by Trump and his supporters."

Designers have a history of being picky about who is seen in their clothes - after all, whom a brand chooses to be associated with says a lot to the public about what the label and the person who wears it are about.

We are all probably aware of paid endorsements - for example, how Nike or Dior would pay a celebrity to become their face and ambassador - but brands sometimes even pay celebrities not to wear their clothes. This goes to show how much brands are aware of and cares about how people in the public eye can shape their image, and they do as much as they can to control it.

Melania, like a reality TV star or an actress, represents something. She represents a way of living and a way of leading by example, and she will inevitably have influence on the brands she associates herself with. What does it mean when a designer decides to dress Melania, or not, and can you dress someone you disagree with?

A designer who is conflicted about this issue gives proceeds to an organization which helps people who have trouble entering the country after Trump's administration began, but she might dress Melania if requested to. Designers have a lot of influence in the media, and it will be fascinating to see how they choose to react on this issue.

Gloria Yu is an artist, designer and citizen of the world.; instagram: gloria- yunotme

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