It's common knowledge that becoming an esteemed fashion designer is not the kind of thing that happens every day, overnight, or even to every eager and passionate college design major. But, a few young hopefuls got a leg up today, at the first-ever White House Fashion Education Workshop, in the form of career advice from Michelle Obama and Anna Wintour.
The 31 students — including 10 who are part of the Parsons Scholars Program, which provides art, design, and fashion education to underprivileged youth — have been preparing for a big reveal for the last 10 days. Specifically, 16 of the students from the Parsons School of Constructed Environments were tasked with redecorating the entire East Room of the White House, an intimidating assignment made even more so when Diane von Furstenberg, Thom Browne, and Phillip Lim are looking on. Fellow Parsons alumni, including Zac Posen, Jenna Lyons, and Jason Wu, were on hand, too.
As a part of the workshop, they reimagined the East Room with 600 recycled books that were transformed into table centerpieces, napkin rings for the meal portion of the event, a backdrop for the prestigious speakers (including Wintour who introduced the First Lady), and a lectern specifically designed to never obstruct views of Mrs. Obama's dress. Michelle must have appreciated that detail; she wore a student-designed piece by Natalya Koval of FIT.
"It has been such an honor to participate in this event from the workshop helping mentor Natalya," Lela Rose, also in attendance, shared with us. "Coming together with the fashion industry has not only allowed us to help educate these students but also allowed these students to educate and inspire us." Influencers like Eva Chen, Cecilia Dean, Alexis Bittar, Mary Alice Stephenson, and Sara Blakely of Spanx were there to share fashion industry advice from the perspectives of editorial, entrepreneurialism, and construction.
"We worked with about 20 students on the journalism panel," Chen told us, "and basically created a zine which encapsulated the entire event." The zine will be sent home with the students as a souvenir (sorry, everyone else), as will the tips they picked up from the panel. She added that audience members were asking the fashion heavy-hitters all kinds of questions, "everything from 'what’s your favorite dessert?' to 'what would you recommend to students who want to get an internship?'"
It's not unusual for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to play host to such world-renowned power, but this group proves that Michelle Obama is using her "Reach Higher" education initiative to provide students with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. It's a fashion first, for sure, and one that solidifies her icon status. Jump ahead to look inside the private event; we'll keep updating as more photos come in from behind White House walls.