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. Pippa

    Mr President, you got real swag 🙂 !

    November 23, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. GuyinVA

    This was a good strategy. There is nothing wrong with stimulating the economy with the sale of designer clothing and accessories. Unless your Ann Romney in a $900.00 shirt. THAT was apparently a travesty of economic justice.

    November 23, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  3. Thatguy371

    Here come the sour grapes whiney righties. You can almost set your clock by them. An article with anything Obama or dem? You can bet within the hour the repub comments will be fast and furious... and of course WAY off base. They billboard themselves as loving capitalism, but let the President's re=election team have a great idea like this, and all the sudden it's a crappy idea. Let Bush take more vacation days than any president in at least modern history, fine with the repubs. Let Obama take a vacation, here come the griping righties whining. And BTW Obama has taken alot less vacation days than Bush. ALOT! So that's it righties, keep thinking your twisted views of reality are 'the thing'. Newsflash: They aren't. And you aren't gonna be around much longer at the rate you're going. So just keep doing what you're doing. We dems love your flub-ups.

    November 23, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. Thatguy371

    At FREEDOM "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."

    Actually, he DID run on his record... quite a good record too... but you never hear about that over at your home base Faux. Speaking of, why don't you go back there and whine?

    November 23, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  5. SeniorMoment

    Republicans who got stuck holding tons of left over Romney campaign items that were over priced are merely jealous that Obama's campaign did so well with its merchandising. Not every President is likely to have so much clothing line success, but the Mrs. Obama is well known for her style sense.

    November 23, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  6. not in WI

    His record is crap by his own admission. Socialist on a good day.

    November 23, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. JD

    The democrat party reelected Jesse Jackson jr. Enough said about the level of informed voter. President Obama and his campaign know how to manage their voting base.

    November 23, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  8. jb1963

    The right is all jealous that the left won and did so creatively. The right is old and slow. They are holding us back. If you want to move forward lean to the left.

    November 23, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. John

    so Obama team comes up with great profiting generating idea...

    and Romney makes the worst personal investment in history losing millions upon millions...

    who's the real business guru lol....

    November 23, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  10. mrl

    i tried to get a refund when i saw the made in china label.... they said no refunds...

    November 23, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. Leopold Stotch

    If these people can donate that kind of money they should be taxed at a much higher rate than they are currently paying.

    November 23, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  12. Greenspam

    I think House Republicans should drop everything else and start investigating on this fashion thing. Find out if any of the Obama stuff is made in China and how many American jobs are lost!

    November 23, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  13. AnObamaSupporter

    Why can't you Romney supporters just accept defeat in peace? Geesh. I agree jdoe...its ok when GOP supporters pay thousands per plate for Romney...Karl Rove and the Vegas Casino owner who spent MILLIONS in support of your candidate, was that a problem? Get over yourselves. And by the way if you guys are smart you won't put another Bush in office in 2016. You need a candidate that likable and conservative not "far-right" crazy!

    November 23, 2012 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  14. One L

    And I thought liberals didn't take risks, according to Romney....

    November 23, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  15. Blueface

    I always knew that republicans are not the sharpest tool in the shed.. kudo's to Team Obama for pulling off another coup-d'etat!

    November 23, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  16. Expat American

    .....No wonder the rest of the world laughs at the U.S.
    Actually, 'the rest of the world' is only laughing at Americans like you...not the United States as a whole.

    November 23, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  17. Leopold Stotch

    Tax the donors. They can afford it.

    November 23, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  18. Thatguy371

    At JD "Thatguy371, The democrat party reelected Jesse Jackson jr. Enough said about the level of informed voter. President Obama and his campaign know how to manage their voting base."

    And the repubs elected Larry Craig and Mark Foley. So what? Typically repub analogy... out of touch. You repubs are and will always be pompous, uninformed, and completely out of touch with reality. And that is why you lost the prez race, and will keep losing, more and more.

    November 24, 2012 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  19. Mary

    No one but me finds it a disgusting waste to generate a whopping 644 million dollars on a campaign using designer clothes as a vehicle while America is in recession? Wasting money rather than cultivating it? It's shameless and embarrassing for our country.

    November 24, 2012 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  20. Cinchy

    I just read that food stamp recipients outnumber populations of 24 states combined. But hey, fashion first.

    November 24, 2012 05:08 am at 5:08 am |
  21. Evergreen

    The GOP will use this idea next time and will try to pass it off as their own.

    November 24, 2012 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  22. greatscottkey

    Not so fast, JD. The Republicans re-elected both Richard Nixon AND George Bush, Jr. That should tell us all we need to know, eh?

    November 24, 2012 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  23. n, tx

    good job president Obama, made money for election and won, What did Romney do made millions from these so called Neo cons, and Sheldon, Koch brothers and what happened he lost bad so who is a loser?

    November 24, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  24. uncdig

    Let's tax it & then give the rest to the poor.

    November 24, 2012 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  25. Randy, San Francisco

    Clothing and accessories sales job reflects America: young, hip, diverse, and modern. The GOP/Tea Party is still stuck in the past.

    November 24, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
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