Does it matter to female shoppers if a brand leans Red or Blue? The Daily Beast's Rebecca Dana argues that "the consequences of political engagement are particularly significant for women's brands" this year. While that may be true, there doesn't actually seem to be much of a competition regarding whom to support.
Once upon a time, fashion and lifestyle companies and their CEOs weren't expected to publicly participate in politics. But now, brands have realized that they can sell more stuff — and appear appealingly hip — if they back the right candidate. Plus, today's customers want to know more about the people behind their sartorial choices; for example, it's hard for liberals to justify a purchase from a company whose founder is anti-gay marriage or abortion. "There's almost an expectation today that a brand is going to put a stake in the ground and stand for something," marketing firm partner Derrick Daye told The Daily Beast. And for fashion designers and women's lifestyle brands, that candidate is nearly always Barack Obama:
Vogue editor Anna Wintour is an Obama bundler, joining together with Sarah Jessica Parker to host a major fundraiser for the president at Parker's West Village brownstone in June. Michael Kors has given nearly $95,000 in the last three election cycles, all to Democrats, according to the OpenSecrets database. Ralph Lauren has given more than $40,000 in the last three cycles, all to Democrats; nearly $35,000 just this year. Oscar de la Renta has given more than $30,000, all to Democrats.
Women's lifestyle brands are also overwhelmingly in Obama's camp. Lucille Roberts, founder of the Lucille Roberts gyms in New York, gave a total of $2,000 in political contributions before her death in 2003: half to Geraldine Ferraro, half to Frank Lautenberg, both Democrats. Rachel Ray gave $30,000 in the 2008 election cycle: $27,700 to the Democratic National Committee and the remainder to the Obama campaign. Oprah Winfrey, who just landed an interview with Romney, has given $30,800 to the DNC for the 2012 cycle and $5,000 directly to the Obama campaign-considerably more than the $2,300 she gave to Obama in 2007.
Dana really struggled to find an example of a designer who supports Mitt Romney. (Even Reed Krakoff, the man responsible for Ann Romney's outrageously expensive and bizarre bird shirt, said he had nothing to do with her decision to wear his clothing.) The best she could come up with was Nicole Miller, who gave around $2,000 to Rudy Giuliani in the late 1990s but has since given much more money to Democrats. Scandalous! Oh, and Adrienne Vittadini gave $250 to the RNC in 2001. How relevant.
Dana's examples of women's lifestyle brand leaders who support Romney are Gary Heavin, president and CEO of the women-only Curves gym chain, who has given about $17,000 to Republican candidates at the local level, and Jenny Craig, who has given more than $50,000 to Republicans in this election cycle. But while "Fashionistas support Obama while fat women support Romney" makes for a scintillating story, it's not really the case. Jenny Craig the company has been very clear that Jenny Craig herself — the one behind all the political bundling — retired a decade ago and is no longer involved in the apolitical company.
"Businesses want to be all things to all people," Kathy Kiely, managing editor for the Sunlight Foundation's reporting group, told The Daily Beast. "They also want to have that influence. They want to play, but they don't want their customers to get angry with them." But judging from the article, it seems like women's fashion and lifestyle businesses are way more concerned with showing their support for Obama. Given that Obama has a 2-to-1 advantage among single women while Romney is busy trying to convince his female constituency that he totally thinks they're equal to men even though he doesn't support their right to make decisions about their bodies, it's not hard to see why.
Jenny Craig Supports Romney, While Fashionistas Back Obama [The Daily Beast]