- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mrs. O a no-go

The fashion elite will gather June 15 for the Council of Fashion Designer Awards (CFDA), the fashion-industry “Oscars” where insiders and celebrities pause long enough from their air-kissing to toast their designing friends.

This year, the council's Board of Directors Tribute will go to first lady Michelle Obama, the first presidential spouse recognized with the honor, which the CFDA Web site says is “given from time to time to acknowledge significant contributions and commitment to fashion.”

However, the first lady's deputy press secretary, Semonti Mustaphi, has disclosed to Green and Glover that Mrs. O will be a no-show. As of press time, details about why the first lady will skip out on her coronation by the fashion elite were unavailable.

“The first lady has been a great inspiration to our industry,” Steven Kolb, executive director of the CFDA, said in an e-mail to G2. “Her genuine commitment to wear American designers has done much, in a short amount of time, to show the creativity and innovation of our country's fashion talent. The evening will include a special tribute to her, and we are in conversation with her office on the best way to honor her and thank her for her support.”

This year's CFDA honorees also include Marc Jacobs and three designers whose visibility recently received a big boost from Mrs. Obama's patronage: Narcisco Rodriguez (Womenswear Designer of the Year), Jason Wu and Thakoon Panichgul (CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award).

Politics and pros

Earlitha “Cookie” Johnson, wife of basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson, tells us that although the Johnsons supported Hillary Rodham Clinton in her epic nomination battle with President Obama, she and Mr. Johnson felt “very welcomed” by the Obamas after Mr. Obama clinched the nomination in the summer.

“My husband talked to President Obama very early on to let him know about our alignment with the Clintons,” Mrs. Johnson reveals.

The wife of the Lakers legend is stepping out of her comfortable role as a “sports wife” and trying on “entrepreneur” for size. She has launched her own brand of jeans, called CJ by Cookie Johnson, which she plans to introduce to the Washington market at Nordstrom at Tysons Corner this Saturday.

Mrs. Johnson tells us that personal experience brought her into the jeans business.

“I always thought of myself as healthy and having a good shape, but I found frustration when trying to find jeans that fit,” she explains. “They would either be too low or not have enough room in the thighs, so I decided to do my own line of jeans for women with real bodies.”

Mrs. Johnson, who teamed up with veteran denim designer Michael Glasser, says that unlike the “skinny jeans” that are all the rage, her line of jeans goes up to a size 38 waist.

“The response has been overwhelming,” she says. “I met a woman who cried in the dressing room when she found a pair of jeans that actually fit her. This is a way to give women their self-confidence back.”

Two people whom Mrs. Johnson would love to see in her jeans are Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Clinton, the secretary of state. Mrs. Johnson has gotten to know both women through her political activities and says she hopes by fall, her jeans line will have longer inseams to fit taller women, such as Mrs. Obama.

So how is the new president doing in terms of AIDS research and funding? “We are making strides, but we have a long way to go here and in Africa,” Mrs. Johnson says of the disease, which has affected her personally since 1991, when her husband announced he was HIV-positive.

CJ by Cookie Johnson jeans retail for $141 and are available only online and in Nordstrom stores nationwide.

To contact Stephanie Green and Elizabeth Glover with a tip or to request event coverage, please e-mail [email protected]

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