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. Dave

    But, what are these people thinking? They might be very wealthy but they are most definitely stupidd. They supported a guy that will make them pay higher taxes, significantly higher taxes. They supported a guy that will make us poorer so fewer people will be able to buy their high fashion products thus, making them poorer, too. Are you folks thinking with you feet? How could you support Barack? Anyway, I guess you have too much money and would love to join forces with the poor. So, please let me welcome you to poverty. It will be a painfully slow experience until you reach the bottom, it will be slow but steady. You will be poorer and poorer as time goes by until the work / business you developed over decades completely disappears thanks to Barack.

    November 24, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  2. just askin

    was all this merchandise produced in the usa by union workers? or was all of it or some of it produced outside the usa by non-union workers. is obama walking the walk???

    November 24, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. NoKidding

    This is the reason why the republicans lost and will continue losing. They make a big deal out of everything. So wasn't Romney's $50,000 a plate dinner fundraising in Florida an insult to serve food at $50,000 a plate while the economy is struggling? Fundraising is fundraising, the main object is to obtain money for the campaign, whether you just plain donate the money, or you get a scarf or a T-Shirt for it, or you get a silly bumper sticker for it, or you get a $50,000 steak for it. Get over it, Repubs, you just get more and more disgusting by the day.

    November 24, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. amphiox

    SOME rich entrepreneurs realize that the real job creators are the middle class who are their customers, and without a healthy middle class to provide them with customers, their businesses are doomed in the long run, and are therefore more than happy to pay slightly higher taxes, which they can easily afford, in order for there to be a more prosperous middle class to be their customers.

    November 24, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  5. SafeJourney

    Dave, Why did they support President Obama? Huh? Because Romney was a severely flawed candidate. Like your statement is severely flawed.

    November 24, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  6. amphiox

    This is an example of entrepreneur ship. Instead of just asking for donations, ie freebie handouts, they went ahead and created products that people would want to buy in order to raise some money. Capitalism at work! You'd think Republicans would be in favor of such things, and in fact do it themselves.

    But of course Republicans and the rest of the ring wing aren't really interested in fiscal responsibility or the proper promotion of capitalism at all. They just hypocritically pretend to in order to get votes.

    November 24, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  7. amphiox

    So, people who provided money to the Obama campaign not only got a winning presidential candidate, they got some decent quality goods in return as well!

    While the people who provided money for the Romney campaign got zilch.

    One has to wonder why anyone ever bothers giving money to republicans at all. A highly fiscally irresponsible waste of money it would seem.

    November 24, 2012 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  8. Dan, TX

    Yes, all items sold by the Obama campaign were produced in the US by union workers. Romney – not so much – go find out, Romney's campaign products were also all made in the US. Not sure if Romney's were made by union workers, though. Probably not.

    November 24, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  9. Shipshapesheep

    What happens when the takers outnumber the makers? I don't know, but we are about to find out very soon.

    November 24, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  10. bongoman55

    Dave, that is the difference between you and the unselfish. These people believe if you empower the middle class to grow on their own, they will not need the crumbs that fall from the table of the super rich after you enrichen them some more. If they have money and see the logics, we do not care what folks and those of your ilk think.
    Now find a cozy corner and let's not hear from you until 2016 when you all can try again.....unsucessfully!!!!

    November 24, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  11. 1608

    Dave my job is NOT going to Mexico,China or out of business any time soon.

    November 24, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  12. Tony

    Dave, Obama does not want significantly higher taxes. Obama wants to restore the Clinton tax rate for the highest bracket. People who make over $250,000 are not living on society's margins. If they spend so much money that they can't afford to pay taxes like they did under Clinton, they are unlikely to be making $250,000 in the first place.

    November 24, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  13. mcskadittle

    no JD, the people of Jessie Jacksons Jr district reelected him there is a big difference, i guess thats why mitt lost

    November 24, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. LoLo

    @Dave evidenty you do not see the whole picture, True Americans do not mind helping out their country for all Americans, The problem with the GOP is that they only want to help a few select Americans. I thank God everyday that Mitt Romney did not win the election. It is we the people for all the people and America woke up in time. If you still don't get it I feel bad for you.

    November 24, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  15. Name Denise

    Sounds like Dave is a Repubic how will PO make them poor? Get real u hate PO because he is a Black Man living in the White House the rich needs there taxes to go up. who ever heard of rich people needing a tax cut!!!

    November 24, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  16. .

    What a joke.

    Where are the jobs?

    November 24, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. Name

    If you can pay that much to help a fundraiser you can pay that much or more in taxes

    November 24, 2012 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
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