In New York, some designers bask in political light

Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:59pm EST
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Designing a dress for the world political stage can bring embarrassing ridicule or instant fame, but that risk is paying off for some designers showing at New York's fashion week that began Friday.

For some designers of fashions worn by First Lady Michelle Obama and the vice president's wife Jill Biden -- both hailed as fashion icons -- sales have increased and recognition skyrocketed.

Among those enjoying the spotlight are Jason Wu, who designed the first lady's inaugural gown, and Michelle Smith, the founder of Milly, and Reem Acra, whose clothes were worn by the vice president's wife during January's inaugural celebrations.

Getting much of the attention is young designer Wu, 26, who made Michelle Obama's one-shouldered white chiffon gown. Before then he was largely known only in fashion circles.

"It has been tremendous, so much. The recognition alone is something designers work 10 or 15 years for," Wu said in an interview. "It is global recognition. This will put the brand to the next level."

Wu's name has become indelibly linked to the first lady, whom he said has made fashion exciting at a crucial economic time. She appears in a fuchsia dress by Wu on the cover of Vogue's March edition.

But it's not just about recognition. Wu, who grew up in Taipei, Taiwan, started his label in 2006 and put on his sixth New York fashion show on Friday, said half of his spring collection shipped to the stores is already sold out.

"It is about the stores picking up on that and getting more behind the brand than ever. It is about taking that message to the consumers," he said.   Continued...