the Insiders


Michelle Obama in an Isabel Toledo design.
The Black Artists Association's criticism of Michelle Obama's inaugural outfits has touched off a firestorm of debate about race.

The association criticized the First Lady for not including clothes from an African-American designer in her inaugural wardrobe that covered Narciso Rodriguez, Isabel Toledo and Jason Wu, which WWD first wrote about in its Jan. 22 issue. In a subsequent item five days later, BAA founder Amnau Eele stressed she wasn't speaking on behalf of designers. As her nonprofit's name suggests, it is made up of artists, not designers.

Nonetheless, Eele's comments have set off a backlash. 

A look from Rick Owens.

When George Clooney arrived at a Versace women's wear show a few years back, there was a roar from the blasé fashion pack, and women and men surged in with the photographers to get a closer look.

Last week, when David Beckham strolled into the Emporio Armani show at the outset of Milan men's fashion week, the reception was incredibly subdued: a flashbulb here, a gasp there.

"We're civilized," a veteran men's editor said by way of explanation.

The first fashion week of 2009 was bound to be low-key, given the economic downturn. 
For better or worse, accounting doesn't inspire that much interest. It's easy to see why, with all the numbers and yawn-inducing rules that are just this side of impossible to understand.

But when big-name players like Jones Apparel Group start registering losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars, it opens some eyes, even for the most mathematically challenged among us.
I was one of the million-plus who stood on the National Mall Tuesday for four hours (or more) in 30 degree temperatures, and to answer your question, no, I wasn't cold.

Adrenaline and body heat kept me warm through President Obama's speech. But that's not to say that I, and my compatriots, didn't come prepared. There were more floor-length fur coats on women (and men) than I ever expected to see.
All of the high-flown rhetoric about opening up the inauguration to the people can only go so far. For one thing, capacity at various events isn't limitless, and for another, there were donors to reward and political insiders to keep happy. But as the celebrities shut out of Maureen Dowd's cocktail party or the Huffington Post Ball could have told you, elite status only goes so far.

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.

Let the honeymoon begin. President Barack Obama, coming off of his inauguration and 10 official balls that ran into the wee hours of the morning, hit the ground running Wednesday.

The scene at the Mall during President Obama's inauguration.
What is the point of being there?

Shuffling and standing for hours; clutching heat packs in the cold; losing sleep, time, money -- for what, when the Inauguration can be experienced instantaneously on any number of screens?

The collective experience of the end of the Bush presidency and the dawn of the Obama administration can be replicated digitally through Twitter and Facebook and My.Barack.Obama. So why crowd miles from the Capitol in January, just to watch it on a bigger screen?

The nation's capital, a bastion of power brokers known for back-room deal making over significant pieces of legislation, is turning Hollywood for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.

The bleachers and bunting are up on Pennsylvania Avenue and the inaugural souvenir shops peddling Obama's likeness on everything from breath mints (seriously) to posters and earrings have sprung up all over town. Retailers have constructed celebratory window displays to attract partygoers looking for that perfect inaugural gown or tuxedo -- just in case they don't already have one.

Drew Barrymore at the Golden Globes.
That hair.

Newly blonde Drew Barrymore channeled Marilyn Monroe at the Golden Globes, and her inflated coif got more slings and arrows than just about anything on the red carpet.

The man who created the look is unrepentant.

Italian hairstylist Giannandrea contended the trend toward the simple has become bland.

"People say sometimes less is more, but to me less is less," he said. With Barrymore's hair recently blonded, Giannandrea turned to Marilyn as his muse. Mix in a bit of "La Dolce Vita"-era movies for inspiration and -- voilà! -- the hairstylist created the 'do many lambasted as a don't.

A year ago, in a page-one story headlined "Bad and Getting Worse: Retailer Worries Spiral as Comp Sales Stumble," WWD reported on a very disappointing December 2007 during which 27 of the 41 stores tracked suffered same-store sales declines. Mass merchants, on average, moved up 1.1 percent, but specialty stores tracked down 3 percent and, even with increases at Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, department stores lost 5.4 percent. Sales weren't quite as bad as expected, but the story warned of "a recession -- or 'recession-like' conditions -- as consumer spending slows to a crawl."

The story made no mention of fuel or gasoline, but it did take note, ominously enough, of a possible acquisition of "beleaguered mortgage firm Countrywide Financial Corp." Moody's Investors Service analyst John Lonski warned of a tough 2008 "until the labor market firms" and of the smallest expansion in consumer spending -- 2 percent -- since 1991.

Ah, the good old days!
When a pop star, soon to be turning 50, issues a statement saying, "I have no plans to get divorced at this time," it generally means, "my plans to divorce will be announced soon." When the publicist for a vehicularly challenged starlet says, "I have not heard that," it generally means, "it's true, but I'm half denying it." Then there's the all-purpose, "We have no comment," which is designed to introduce doubt to a rumor, but usually means the same thing: "Yup."
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