Tuesday morning's Carolina Herrera show, as somber and dark as it was (although I thought it was positively radiant), had a beacon of light emerge from Section A in the form of White House social secretary Desiree Rogers. Sitting across from the poised and utterly elegant former public relations executive, I couldn't help but think that if First Lady Michelle Obama couldn't make it, Desiree's presence was a darn close second. And while she darted out of Herrera's show without so much as uttering a word to the press, little did I know our paths would continue to cross all day.
Over at Donna Karan's masterful show (the exaggerated arms fashioned in fur were too chic to put into words), I spotted Desiree again, and this time I noticed her impeccable posture. But again, she darted out before I could have a few words with her.
As I entered Thakoon's show (a precise executive of fur and color, with definite homages to Lanvin and YSL), I enjoyed another Desiree sighting! What were the odds? This time I was determined to speak to her. But then, in a cloud of silk, entered Ikram Goldman, the adored Chicago retailer who's become a household name thanks to her stylistic efforts in placing the First Lady in everything from Jason Wu and Thakoon to Narciso Rodriguez and J.Crew. Who to talk to first, the stylist or the social secretary? Fortunately for me, they both fell right into my lap.
As I went to congratulate Ikram on the recent birth of healthy twins, Desiree came walking right up. The retailer and the social secretary proceeded to exit Thakoon's show arm in arm, but paused to speak to me. Ikram, for the record, had just arrived in New York and, despite previous murmurs, did not attend Jason Wu's show. But more on Ikram in a moment; I was concentrating my sole efforts on Desiree. As I introduced myself, we engaged each other in friendly conversation. I think I'm in love.
Me: Desiree, I have to ask: Who are you wearing?
"It's all Nina Ricci. And the bag is by Kotur."
Me: What have you made of the three shows you took in?
"Well, I'm here just for one day and everything I've seen has been so different. The texture and fabric are clearly important elements to these designers, and to be able to see it up close — to see the wisps of fur and fabric float through the runway as the models walked — was multidimensional magic."
Me: Were you able to draw up any conclusions on what fall will be like?
"It looks like there's going to be a lot of color!" [laughs]
Me: Needless to say, there's been a lot of talk about Michelle Obama's fashion choices and her support of fledging talent. What's your take on all the publicity? Is it too much?
"We're honestly just so thrilled to be able to support them. One of the things that is extremely important to the First Lady is comfort — but also to have fun with fashion. The days of having just one style are over."
Me: As social secretary, how do you apply the rules you subscribe to with those in the fashion world?
"As social secretary, I'm getting a preview of fall to see what colors I would use for our events in D.C. For example, I saw a lot of silver today, so who knows? Maybe an upcoming state dinner will have a metallic touch."
Me: How have you learned to adapt your fashion in these economic times?
"I've been in the same top all day, but I admit I did change into a different skirt. Right now, for me it's all about, 'How can I stretch my wardrobe?'"
Me: What have you loved that you saw today?
"The coats at Donna Karan were great; I especially loved their silhouettes. And there was one knee-length dress at Carolina Herrera ... it was greenish with bronze detailing ... that was sublime."
Meanwhile, back with Ikram, the retailer was still adhering to her policy of not commenting on the Obamas. She did, however, talk about Thakoon's fall collection, which was inspired by birds of fancy where two-dimensional became three-dimensional. "I absolutely felt it was a departure from the past, but very steady with the fur and color. It was a hint of Lanvin and I loved that, naturally."
Jim Shi was born in Brussels, Belgium, and grew up in Paris before moving to New York City. For the past four-and-a-half years, Shi was fashion news editor of IMG's fashion and media industry publication The Daily and editor of its sister Website, Fashion Week Daily. He has covered Fashion Weeks in New York, Milan, and Paris.
PHOTOS BY PATRICK MCMULLAN