Obama designer gear gets up the noses of the Republicans


By Noel Young, Correspondent

February 7, 2012 | 3 min read

A design-world row has broken out in the US over a New York fund-raising event called "Runway to Win" in support of President Barack Obama's re-election.

Thakoon silk scarf: Obamabargain at $95

More than two dozen famous designers have created tote bags, T-shirts and accessories to go on sale at the event , reports the Wall Street Journal.

Attendees can purchase a tote bag designed by Derek Lam for $75; a make-up bag by Richard Blanch with red white and blue nail polish is $95. But Republicans are upset. They say the sale might violate campaign-finance rules.

Their point is that "The gear will sell for a fraction of the price the designers' merchandise typically fetches at department stores," says the WSJ. Republicans say that suggests the designers relied on corporate resources to keep costs low And that could amount to illegal campaign contributions.

On Lam's website, handbags are from $340 to $1,890. The three scarves offered on Thakoon's website are $325 apiece.

"This raises serious questions about whether corporate money, property and employees were improperly used," said Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

The Obama campaign says the gear complies with campaign-finance rules.

"All of the designers volunteered their personal time to create these great designs," the campaign said, and were "not underwritten with any corporate funds."

Vogue magazine editor British-born Anna Wintour had rounded up Obama supporters for the project. She referred questions to the Obama campaign.The Journal describe the goods as "pedestrian campaign gear".

The Federal Election Commission is in charge of policing the regulations which govern what a campaign can do, including how everyone from singers to designers can volunteer their time. In 2008, Elton John was allowed to perform free at a fund-raising event for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

As for the Obama fund-raiser, the WSJ writers conclude: The products bolster the claim that the designers didn't put much time into their effort.

Designer Narciso Rodriguez said it took about 24 hours to design a $45 Obama T-shirt.

Marc Jacobs designed a T-shirt for Mr. Obama's 2008 presidential bid and volunteered this year, he told the WSJ, because "the president is cool ... someone I believe in."


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