- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oh, the woes of First Fashion. There is a price to pay when one is a global style icon: Everybody wants some power cachet.

Such was the case Wednesday for both President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, whose images were used without permission in two advertising campaigns — his borrowed by Weatherproof, an outerwear manufacturer, hers in an anti-fur outreach by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).


The White House is not pleased, and said so in a decidely unstylish statement, dryly noting that “a long-standing policy disapproving of the use of the president’s name and likeness for commercial purposes” was already in place.

“What I can say is that we did not consent to this,” said Semonti M. Stephens, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama.

The first lady appears in the offending advocacy ad dressed in a svelte black dress and pearls, and flanked by Oprah Winfrey, Carrie Underwood and Tyra Banks — all presumably fur free through the miracle of photo-doctoring software.

“In retrospect, we think they’re just lucky they didn’t [tick] Oprah off. Sure, Michelle’s husband is president of the free world, but who got him there to begin with?” asks celebrity gossip Perez Hilton, the nom de blog for Mario Lavandeira Jr.

But the president looks so, well, presidential in his new billboard. Mr. Obama now looms over Times Square in rugged black jacket, framed by a blue sky and emblazoned with the mottos “A Leader in Style” and “Weatherproof.”

This was not from any fashion shoot, though. The image was taken during the president’s visit to the Great Wall of China in November by Associated Press photographer Charles Dharapak.

“We saw the photo in the Wall Street Journal, and lo and behold, he’s wearing a Weatherproof jacket. We looked at a high resolution image with a magnifiying glass to make sure. We were thrilled, and decided it would be a lovely thing to enhance the style of the president,” Freddie Stollmack, president of the New York company, told The Washington TImes.

“Previous presidents visiting the Great Wall were always wearing dreary, long coats. Very funereal,” Mr. Stollmack said.

The company simply purchased the rights to use the photograph from AP, and the rest is, well, history. The billboad is due to remain in place through February.

“There’s buzz we should take the billboard down. I hope that’s not the case. Obviously, we don’t want to alienate the White House. We did this in good faith and generally stay out of the poltical arena. But no one can argue the fact that we have a stylish president,” Mr. Stollmack added.

The New York Times and other newspapers have already rejected the Weatherproof advertising camaign.

Mrs. Obama, meanwhile, is “Fur Free and Fabulous,” at least according to a spashy advocacy campaign unveiled by PETA that includes placement in national magazines, the Metro subway system and the organization’s Web site.

“Our new banners feature a bevy of the smartest, most stylish, and most influential women in America,” said PETA blogger Karin Bennett, who adds that Mrs. Obama’s own press office indicated that the first lady was not a fur fan months ago.

“PETA makes sure everyone knows that fur is creepy, cold and cruel,” Ms. Bennett says.

Is the group getting its point across? Maybe.

“Everybody knows that controversy equals exposure,” said one online visitor to the PETA web site.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide