Some of history’s most progressive campaigns are the result of the work of a single political body. However, on the horizon lies a new and unlikely collaboration; the world of politics has joined up with the influential fashion industry to raise funds in support of Barack Obama’s campaign for a second term as President. The campaign, known as ‘Runway to Win’, has hit the US with full force, and despite the contrasting principles of both houses, it has become undeniably successful, providing a growth in power on both sides of the movement.
The fashion industry’s support for Obama’s re-election first began through a collaboration of designers, creating a collection of clothes that aimed to promote a patriotic image of Obama. First spurred by the sharp comments of Mitt Romney and his aim in “defeating Barack Obama”, Runway to Win boasts designs from the likes of Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang, Thakoon, House of Deron, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Jason Wu. Consisting of t-shirts, tote-bags and scarves, the pieces host a patriotic theme in the classic combination of red, white and blue with slogans promoting Obama’s efforts in politics. Devoted fashion followers will notice that the clothes are less elaborate in design than expected. However, considering the business incentive of the project, they aim to promote Obama as a leader through subtly stylish designs that are to be worn on an everyday basis. Although such tactics are not often used by high-end labels, Runway to Win aims to appeal to a wider market, particularly (and perhaps ironically) to those who are less fashion-conscious. By doing so, the efforts of the fashion industry are effectively used to increase the support towards Obama’s campaign.
Shortly after the campaign’s release, a surprising domino effect took hold: surrounding members of the fashion industry were adding their names to the campaign, and proving the sneers of Republican opposition’s to be short-lived. US Vogue editor Anna Wintour was named one of Obama’s top tier fund-raisers, alongside Miramax film mogul Harvey Weinstein, both in association with Runway to Win and through their own private efforts. So far, the editor has raised more than $500,000 (£316,834) to help the President win his second term through private dinners and fund-raisers at her New York residence. Actress Scarlett Johansson is also publicly speaking about her support, encouraging the political and fashion side of the campaign. Whilst discussing her support in 2011, she pitched patience to the public in Obama’s efforts to recover the economy, praising his progressive work with the Fair Pay Act and repeal of the LGBT discriminatory act ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.
Naturally, the campaign is not without its critics. The Republican National committee recently released a new film that slates the project’s launch party and use of high-profile events to gain support. Through a series of stills of the items featured in the collection, the ending message takes a spiteful stab at the efforts of the campaign, reading “watching the Obama campaign host a ritzy NYC fashion show whilst 12 million remain out of work? Priceless. There are some campaign moments money can’t buy. Obama’s celebrity-filled fashion show is one of them.” Whilst criticism is expected, including attempts to prove that campaign finance rules were being violated, it is easy to recognise how the collaboration is no different from the same large-scale galas held by the opposition – perhaps with a distinctly more creative flair.
Despite the unwavering differences between fashion and politics, Runway to Win is a prime example of the comparable power that they both hold being put to good use. Politics will always maintain a firm grasp on the organisation of our society, although its ability to gain more support is enabled when a creative force such as fashion lends its iron-hand influence. The words of approval of Wintour and her faithful armies enable Runway to Win to appeal to a wider, younger market; promoting the optimistic message that Obama brings to the political table and the ever-desirable current fashions from some of the industry’s most coveted labels.