Michelle Obama's fashion initiative

First lady Michelle Obama hosts the first White House Fashion Education Workshop on Wednesday.

Story highlights

  • First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a fashion workshop at the White House
  • More than 150 students attend the workshop
  • Obama emphasizes the importance of education in front of more than 150 students
First lady Michelle Obama stepped into the fashion world on Wednesday by helping those pursuing fashion careers have face time with some high-profile fashion icons.
More than 150 students attended the first White House Fashion Education Workshop with some of the nation's most famous designers and magazine editors, such as Anna Wintour of Vogue Magazine, Jason Wu, Diane von Furstenberg and Narciso Rodriguez.
Obama, who hosted the workshops and luncheon, emphasized the importance of education in getting ahead.
"I know that many of you are hoping to one day pursue a career in fashion, and that's why we invited you here today, because we want you to really understand what it's going to take to be successful," Obama said. "We want you to see firsthand that a solid education and the willingness to work hard is really at the core of what it's going to take to achieve your goals: education and hard work. It's that simple."
Von Furstenberg, who designed the famous wrap dress, echoed that message and told the participants how she made her dreams come true.
"When you are young, it's most important that first you study, that first moment of studying, that is what will stay with you forever," she said. "But keep your eyes opened. And be open. Be open to everything. Be curious."
The first lady also talked about the example of an unlikely fashion icon: Sara Blakely.
Blakely worked her way up from selling fax machines for an office supply company and working as a ride operator at Disney World, all while developing and devoting her savings to a new business idea.
"She pitched her idea to factories and mills, asking them to help her make the product a reality, and of course, she was turned down again and again and again," Obama recounted. "But finally, a manager at a factory liked her idea, and today, 14 years later, Sara's idea, Spanx, is a multibillion-dollar company with products selling in more than 50 countries. And we all wear them with pride!"
The students represented more than a dozen schools from the East Coast and participated in five workshops, where they heard from dozens of experts on the topics of construction in fashion, entrepreneurship, and fashion journalism.
They also heard from a panel that included several top designers like von Furstenberg, Jenna Lyons of J. Crew, and Wu, all whose creations have been worn by Obama.
Wu, who designed the first lady's dresses for both her husband's inaugurations, told the audience about growing up in Taiwan and feeling like he was different when he chose designing clothes over playing sports.
Obama assured the fashionistas that hard work and perseverance are essential to succeed.
"I want those stories to show you that there's no magic to being successful in fashion or in anything else. What is required is a willingness to work long nights, to suffer through rejection and failure, to rise above all of that, all the doubts and fears and anxieties, whether you come from, you know, the city, the suburbs, no matter where you come from, all those feelings are natural," Obama said.