This is the lesson first lady Michelle Obama shared Wednesday with more than 150 young aspiring fashion designers,who listened to her speak as they ate lunch in the White House East Room. The students came from high schools and colleges around the country to participate in the White House’s first Fashion Education Workshop.
The event was part of the Reach Higher program,one of the first lady’s initiatives that encourages high school students to further their education after graduation. The students participated in workshops – including sessions on fashion journalism,wearable technology and entrepreneurship – led by professors and high-profile fashion designers.
Wearing a navy blue,racer-back dress designed by Fashion Institute of Technology student Natalya Koval,Obama emphasized the importance of the fashion industry. A second dress designed by Fashion Institute of Technology student Chelsea Chen was displayed on stage.
“Fashion is about so much more than just a pretty pair of pumps or the perfect hemline,” Obama said. “For so many people across the country,it is a calling,it is a career and it’s a way they feed their families.”
Americans spent more than $350 billion on clothing and shoes last year,she said,and about 1.4 million Americans work in the fashion industry. Obama listed other career fields that play a role in fashion design,including business marketing,technology,manufacturing and agriculture.
“It’s a big,complicated industry,” she said.
Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour praised Obama and some of her other initiatives,including Let’s Move,a campaign to end childhood obesity in the U.S.,and Joining Forces,a military support program spearheaded by Obama and Jill Biden.
“She is constantly thinking about how best to provide all of us with the right ingredients for a full life,especially our young people,” Wintour said. “She has once again turned the White House into a center of creativity and collaboration for students from across the country.”
Obama shared stories of two successful designers who started with very little and worked hard to become fashion moguls: Sara Blakely,creator of Spanx shapewear,and fashion designer Maria Cornejo,whose clothing Obama has worn.
“I want those stories to show you that there’s no magic to being successful in fashion or in anything else,” she said. “What is required is a willingness to work long nights,to suffer through rejection and failure,to rise above all of that – all the doubts and the fears and the anxieties.”
Reach reporter Ayana Stewart at [email protected] or 202-408-1493. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.