The Fashion Statement: Fashion's First Lady
We know the First Lady has style. But did you know she was responsible for $2.7 billion in fashion sales at the height of the recession?
In a story published this week by the Harvard Business Review, Michelle Obama made more than 189 public appearances clothed in 29 brands between November, 2008, and December, 2009. After each of those appearances, fashionistas ran out to buy something from whatever label she wore, generating an average of $14 million in sales. This in turn affected the company's stock price which sometimes remained at an elevated level for weeks.
A celebrity's power is nothing new to the fashion world. But it turns out Michelle Obama is the holy grail of celebrity endorsements.
The HBR interviewed David Yermack, professor at NYU's Stern School, who found that following 18 of Mrs. Obama's public appearances, sales of whatever fashion brand or designer she chose to wear shot up 2.3 percent. A celebrity endorser-one like Sarah Jessica Parker for Halston, for instance-might only account for a 0.5 percent rise in sales. Not even other first ladies hold this kind of sway. The article pointed out that French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy sticks with one label-Dior-and most people can't afford the brand. Mrs. Obama, by contrast, mixes designer clothing with accessible brands like J. Crew.
I was based in Los Angeles for many years and know how the fashion/celebrity publicity machine works. Prior to the recession, fashion companies would hand out swag (free product) like candy at Halloween in the hopes the celebrity is caught, shot and published wearing the stuff. I've seen fashion companies force celebrities to take a picture with a product before they're allowed to walk away with it.
This report suggests women know how the machine works and do not trust that Angelina Jolie actually wears what she's been photographed wearing. Or at least she isn't wearing it for nothing. In other words, women aren't easily duped.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Obama can add one more title to her name: the most powerful woman in fashion.