Suzy Talks Michelle
Legendary fashion editor Suzy Menkes talks to The Daily Beast about the first lady’s style choices, the designers she chooses, and why Mrs. O is no Jackie O.
What do you think of all the sudden hype of designers like Thakoon and Jason Wu because of the first lady?
Well, I’ve been interested in Thakoon for a long time, and I think that anybody interested in fashion knows all these designers. She’s been very smart, Michelle Obama, in getting these younger designers. But they didn’t come from nowhere; they’ve set up businesses. What is really interesting when you look at so many of these designers in New York is that they have Asian origins of one kind or another, whether you’re talking about Jason Wu or Thakoon. But there’s a whole slew of them, about 10 or 12 who are interesting. And I would be very interested to know— and I’ve written about it —whether there is that factor, something in the soul of Asian designers that makes them create clothes that are particularly suited to such a lively and intelligent first lady.
“The first few looks were totally first lady—Jason Wu said those words to me.”
Did you see Jason Wu’s collection, and do you think he had Michelle Obama in mind when he designed it?
Well, I can only quote what he said to me, which is that the first few looks were totally first lady—he said those words to me. I think that people who come from the outside imagine that these people are just parachuting from nowhere. But just the very fact that they had been bought from a boutique in Chicago shows that they were in business before Michelle Obama was on anybody’s radar.
Do you think that she will feel any pressure to expand beyond what is selected for her by stylist Ikram Goldman or to explore a broader range of American designers?
You know, I can’t tell you how sad I would be if I thought Michelle Obama had only been focusing on buying clothes. I think it’s wonderful that America has such an intelligent first lady, so highly educated, so much a real partner for her husband. I think she’ll find many interesting things to do. And what’s she’s doing is just great! She’s getting clothes to wear for her life.
Yes, she shouldn’t have to think too much about what she’s going to wear.
The world has changed since Jackie O and all those fashionplates! You know, smart women find a store where people do the work for them. They pick the clothes and they find something suitable. And it’s not just Michelle Obama. Working women everywhere are called up by their favorite store, “You know, we’ve got something great for you.” That’s how it should be.
Renata Espinosa is the New York editor of Fashion Wire Daily. She is also the co-founder of impressionistic fashion and art blog TheNuNu and sometimes a backup dancer for "The Anna Copa Cabanna Show."