Inside Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Fashion Education Workshop at the … – Vogue.com
First Lady Michelle Obama took to the small podium in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday afternoon and surveyed her audience. They bent over elaborate pastry-decked centerpieces, extended their arms for celebratory selfies, craned their necks to see who else was in the room, they giggled and gossiped, and it all seemed a bit like a high school cafeteria. And that’s because it almost was. “Now, is this not cool?!” The First Lady trilled. “Here are some of the most interesting figures in fashion, you’re in the White House—and there’s food!” And it was cool: Her audience—around 150 students from across the country and a bevy of fashion luminaries (most of whom have dressed Mrs. Obama at one time or another)—chuckled in agreement. Brought together by Reach Higher, the First Lady’s initiative to promote education and enable young fashion enthusiasts to pursue fulfilling careers in the industry, students met with renowned experts and celebrated designers, teachers, theorists, and entrepreneurs for a series of intimate workshops, a seated lunch, and an advice-based panel featuring Jenna Lyons, Diane von Furstenberg, Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, Tracy Reese, and Edward Wilkerson. The overall effect was one of overarching and overwhelming support, both within the design world and for those aspiring to join it. (And the setting was pretty impressive, too, now that you mention it.)
“Now nurturing and fashion are not two words you might expect to go together—fashion is often dismissed as anything but—but I beg to differ,” said Anna Wintour, citing both industry-created employment and opportunity across the globe as well as fashion’s ability to aid in social change, to support causes as varied as fighting AIDS, breast cancer, and hunger, and to “allow us to think about who we are individually and as a society, and to be creative every single day,” a sentiment that Mrs. Obama echoed in her own remarks, crediting fashion for enabling her to do her job by making her feel beautiful, powerful, and confident. (The first lady, it should be noted, was wearing a navy and black racer backed dress designed by Natalya Koval, an FIT student who had won a competition and was present at the workshops.)
And it isn’t just the First Lady: In the White House’s Green Room earlier that day, at a workshop devoted to the idea of inspiration helmed by Narciso Rodriguez, Reed Krakoff, and Barbara Tfank, a young student piped up, holding aloft a sketchbook gifted by Rodriguez, along with the advice to believe in himself and keep his eyes open for inspiration anywhere. “This book’s gonna start a revolution,” said the student. We couldn’t put it better ourselves.