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!