Obama's designer couture pays off for campaign
November 23rd, 2012
10:34 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama's designer couture pays off for campaign

(CNN) - While President Barack Obama's re-election campaign took heat for launching a high-fashion clothing line as a fundraising tool earlier this year, it turns out the move may not have been such a far-fetched idea.

The Obama team's campaign manager, Jim Messina, recently said the line ultimately brought in "just north of $40 million"–a notable chunk of the more than $644 million raised by the campaign.

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With high-dollar pieces created by some of the industry's top designers, the idea was started by Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue Magazine and a big Obama backer. The line even held runway fashion shows, including an event in February, where more than 500 paying guests showed up to shop for the Obama gear, paying anywhere from $44 for a discounted ticket to $2,500 for a chance to have dinner with the event's organizers.

Republicans had a field day with the fashion show, held at an upscale chain store in New York City and co-hosted by Wintour and actress Scarlett Johansson. Critics blasted the move as an insensitive nod to luxury during tough economic times.

Messina made his comments in an interview with Joshua Green at Bloomberg Businessweek. In his article, Green said the fashion items were "about the only thing (Messina) didn't want to talk about on the record."

"But he made clear that the point of the enterprise was to raise money for the campaign–and why stop at $15 T-shirts, which all campaigns sell, when you could bring in a lot more revenue selling high-priced designer swag? That was the logic," Green wrote.

At the New York fashion show, 23 designers put their touches on tote bags, shirts, pins and scarves. The wares on display: $75 tote bags designed by Tory Burch and Diane Von Furstenburg, $45 t-shirts by Marc Jacobs, Beyonce, Sean John and Narciso Rodriguez, and polo shirts by Russell Simmons.

Vera Wang created a tote bag with a heart-shaped design that placed an American flag under the name Obama. Wang told CNN at the time she took part because she is "trying to be supportive of the economy that is in the middle of turning around."

The items were also sold online by the Obama campaign in a rather sleek section of its website, with one page still displaying a Thakoon Panichgul scarf for $95.

A note, however, sits at the bottom of the site, reading: "These items are now sold out."

- CNN Senior Producer Adam Reiss contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Fundraising • President Obama
soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. plain&simple

    Any other " news" to report today?

    November 23, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  2. Just a thought

    Can we get some real news, instead of fluff stories today?

    November 23, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  3. ST

    No concrete news today. Let those concern get anything and let time pass by.

    November 23, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  4. alyarby

    Yessir, a president to be proud of, hawking tee-shirts and designers handbags. He's just the QVC of the White House. No wonder the rest of the world laughs at the U.S.

    November 23, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. Anthony

    There is nothing wrong with the idea of using a clothing line to raise money. It is just a tool. It is like fundraising dinners for candidates. Well-heeled people pay big bucks to attend those dinners. Are they paying for dinner when they shell out the money? No. They pay to support the candidates.

    November 23, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  6. DoddT

    alyarby...how/why EXACTLY is the rest of the world "laughing at the US"?

    November 23, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  7. NukeTim

    News to me.... LOL

    November 23, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  8. Larry L


    Yessir, a president to be proud of, hawking tee-shirts and designers handbags. He's just the QVC of the White House. No wonder the rest of the world laughs at the U.S.
    New ideas are indeed something the right-wing can't tolerate. I suppose it's far more "Presidential" to have three of four billionaires funding the whole campaign effort. I'm sure Romney didn't promise them anything...

    Please encourage all of your fellow Republican supporters to do exactly the same things they did in the past election. That worked out very well for America...

    November 23, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  9. Carol Fairweather

    Alyarby, What planet do you live on? Your President is the most respected man around the world!! Polls were done during the election..80% of the world supported the re election of President Obama..
    I am one of many relieved Canadians, that President Obama was re elected!!!

    November 23, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  10. Hillcrester

    If "republicans had a field day," how come I had not even heard about it? Slow news day today?

    November 23, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  11. jdoe

    Some people complain about $75 tote bags. No problem with Mitt holding $50,000 a plate dinners, though.

    November 23, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  12. Al C

    The "news" is that a good idea made $40million. So good ideas are...you know...A GOOD IDEA.

    November 23, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  13. jimmieb

    Obama the businessman!

    November 23, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  14. jimmieb

    Capitalism at it's best!

    November 23, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain: All of the GOP's policies are PROVEN FAILURES

    @alyarby: "No wonder the rest of the world laughs at the U.S."

    If you watched something other than Fox you would know this is a lie. Besides, what's wrong with a little capitalism?

    November 23, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  16. i'malib

    Looking forward to my 'Living on the Dole' shirt arrives.

    November 23, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. Data Driven

    Mmmmm, those delicious sour grapes from the GOPhers will make a delicious Red Whine.

    November 23, 2012 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Nathan

    I guess its okay to have billionaires write 20 million dollar checks but its not okay to sell high end items. Another example of why the republicans lost. Instead of focusing on what they could do for the American people and despite what the republican say, the only reason anyone is ever elected is for what they can do for the American People they focus on someone buying a shirt for $44.

    November 23, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Squigman

    It would be a blessing if people would try to be more inclusive, and less divisive in their manner. The nation needs to come together, regardless of your political leanings. We need to work together to make it work for all.

    November 23, 2012 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |

    Couldn't run on his record – had to sell and give stuff. Must be the same mentality that draws the crowds to the stores today – all manipulation.

    November 23, 2012 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  21. Surfer George

    No wonder Republicans were knocking it –
    They didn't think of it
    People with money willing to spend it OPENLY supporting President Obama.
    These items MAY become profitable investments as collectors items in the future.

    NOT what Republicans want America to believe.

    November 23, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  22. i'm confused

    i bought an alexander wang hoodie with the phrase "LET US BE CLEAR" printed down the front zipper from runway to win. there's no way i would have paid that much for a hoodie though if it wasn't for the fact that it was benefiting a cause of which i'm supportive!

    November 23, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  23. hannah

    I would think that all capitalists would be for this innovative idea to raise money. But the Republicans are knocking it because they didn't think of it. Then Republicans, conservatives don't think outside the box so they never would have. Turns out Obama is a good businessman as well.

    November 23, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  24. marty

    For shame.....the community organizer had the audicity to upstage the businessman!

    November 23, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  25. Inde Di

    Hopefully they keep making stuff, I would not mind buying somethng for a keepsake as we are truly blessed with one of the greatest presidents of all times and no less also the one who had to work amongst the greatest odds any American president had to work agianst whatever the naysayers will say.

    November 23, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
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