Ikram Goldman: The Woman and the Boutique Behind Michelle’s Fashion Choices, Genius or Menace?

Ikram Goldman, the mystery woman behind Michelle’s fashion (Photo by Anna Knott, courtsy the New York Times)

The New York Times published a story Wednesday on Ikram Goldman, the woman and boutique owner behind some of the First Lady’s style choices.

The low-profile Goldman, who has not granted interviews, has acted as the go-between for fashion designers and Michelle Obama. She most recently handled the various designs, gowns, coats and suits submitted for Michelle’s Inauguration Day wear.

All details regarding the making of Mrs. Obama’s wardrobe for the inaugural were overseen by Ms. Goldman, who kept designers in the dark about whether their outfit would be chosen.

According to the designers involved, none of them had direct contact with the first lady — as designers have had in the past with first ladies. They worked from measurements and other information provided by Ms. Goldman and delivered the finished garments to Chicago or Washington.

“It was all very blind,” said Maria Cornejo, who made eight jewel-tone suits, two winter coats and three dresses for Mrs. Obama. (She wore a purple jacket on the inaugural weekend train ride.) Ms. Cornejo said she had a rough idea of what would fit the new first lady based on things Mrs. Obama had already worn from the designer’s line.

Designers are reluctant to discuss their dealings with Ms. Goldman — in part, some said, because they have not received guidance from the White House and in part because they don’t want to say something that might cause them to lose business. As for Ms. Goldman, she has remained virtually invisible and has not made herself available for interviews. (She declined to be interviewed for this article.) Mrs. Obama’s press secretary, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, characterized the first lady’s relationship with Ms. Goldman as that of a loyal client.

“Mrs. Obama has shopped at Ikram’s store for years and appreciates her shared interest in working with a broad spectrum of designers, including many young and up-and-coming designers,” Ms. McCormick Lelyveld said. She referred to the cover story about Mrs. Obama in the new Vogue, in which the first lady said, “First and foremost, I wear what I love.” Ms. McCormick Lelyveld did not respond to specific questions submitted by e-mail about whether the relationship had been formalized since the election and if Ms. Goldman was receiving additional compensation for her legwork.

Many, many, many people (including yours truly) enjoy doing some “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” of just about everything Michelle wears and if Goldman is the First Lady’s not-quite-stylist this is bound to attract attention for the shop owner — both good and bad.

The folks at New York Magazine’s fashion blog, The Cut, are already bemoaning that Goldman has too much influence over the First Lady’s choices, although some of their complaints could be considered caterwauling on the behalf of bigger designers who were passed over for new kids on the block like Jason Wu and Thankoon.

(H)aving a retailer as a stylist is a conflict of interest for Michelle. Goldman, who declined to talk to Cathy Horyn for her article, would naturally want to promote the designers she sells. If she is essentially styling Michelle, arguably the biggest influence on fashion in this country, if not the world, right now, she could be keeping her from a wealth of designers and options. Oscar de la Renta submitted twelve sketches to Goldman for the inauguration but never heard back from her. Goldman consulted with Michelle about her Vogue shoot, but wasn’t at the sitting, according to a Vogue spokesman. The inauguration and the Vogue shoot were two huge opportunities for designers to gain exposure, and Goldman probably had a heavy hand in both. She’s like Rachel Zoe without the catchphrases. And the world doesn’t need more than one Rachel Zoe.

But the blog does make one salient point, having better access to her would-be designers might warrant more stellar results.

If the designers have no direct access to the First Lady, how are her clothes to truly fit well? Scaasi thought Michelle’s white Wu frock wasn’t “flattering in any way” because it fit too loosely. And if you can have the designer come fit you personally for your history-making fashion moment, why not do it?

So … do we love the Ikram connection? Hate the Ikram connection? Both? Neither? Please discuss!

6 thoughts on “Ikram Goldman: The Woman and the Boutique Behind Michelle’s Fashion Choices, Genius or Menace?

  1. Well now you can’t necessarily go by me because I am RIDICULOUSLY biased where Michelle Obama is concerned, I think she is fierce, fabulous, and chic. Some of the designers in the New York Times article were hating, plain and simple. I love that she wears who and what she wants to wear!

  2. that article tried really hard to make something out of nothing; taking shots about campaign donations etc. (shocking, the obamas have friends who donated to the campaign!) basically it sounds like she’s ordering clothes through a store that she used to shop at back home, and when she wants something by a designer that the store doesn’t carry, then they request it specially for her. of course she ends up primarily wearing designers that ikram carries, because that’s what would happen if she were able to walk into the store to go shopping; yet the author wants to act like that’s some sort of strange coincidence. perhaps she just doesn’t want to spend her days taking meetings with designers; plus the image of her as some grand dame summoning designers to the white house for marathon consulting sessions isn’t something that would go over well either. instead she takes advice from the store owner who she’s apparently known for a while. the typical go to designers for first ladies who are no longer getting the call, need to stop griping. the only point that makes even the tiniest bit of sense in all this is about meeting with designers to get her garments properly fitted (which could also be accomplished by a tailor), but maybe with everything going on in her life that’s just not her biggest concern.

  3. how about those of us who don’t care about the Goldman connection.Even when I don’t like somthing on The First Lady, it winds up semi-growing on me. If this is who Michelle Obama is comfortablt with, then fine. NY folks are just not used to other cities holding sway in fashion. I’m sure Michelle Obama will be seen in an Oscar de la Renta before this term is over. I’m sure many of our American designers will be seen on The First Lady.

  4. With all the problems going on in America this what certain people are worried about?!…Excuse me for saying this but "It’s her money and her choice"…Michelle can rock what ever the hell she feels comfortable wearing. People really need to mind there own business about what the first lady wears. I might not like some of clothing choices but I don’t have to wear them. Michelle just ignore these folks.

  5. I was amazed by New York Mag’s The Cut that seemed unnaturally worried about Ikram, making her sound like the Rasputin of American fashion. Like she’s hiding in the shadows up in the Chi doing her best Anna Wintour impressions, slapping into submission those poor, poor designers with 15lbs of Vogue. I mean, seriously, it’s not that serious. But you’d think it was some kind of fashion coup.And I still think Vogue editor Anna Wintour is the most powerful person in fashion. That woman scares the shit out of people. One could argue that she holds waaaay too much sway and has for years. I say, fuck it, give Ikram a chance. She can’t do much worse.

  6. Michellle Obama is a beautiful, stylish women. However, there is so much more to her than the fashion statement she makes. I would like to hear more about her passions than her fashion.

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