Sporting a John McCain t-shirt in New York is “an interesting social experiment,” says Elisabeth Hasselbeck, the conservative voice on “The View.”
“I wore it in the park the other day running around and I got a lot—I got some double takes,” she laughed. “I had a moment of conflict: Should I run extra fast so I stop getting the looks? Or do I run slowly so people can really take the image in?”
Hasselbeck has been wearing the “Great AmeriCain Hero” t-shirt she designed for at least a little while every day. After she took some heat for sporting it on “The View” last week, it was briefly linked on the McCain Web site, where viewers could click through and buy the as-seen-on-The-View item at a third-party, for-profit McCain store that otherwise featured more run-of-the-mill campaign-branded clothing and paraphernalia.
It’s a far cry from the fashion presence at the official Barack Obama store, where the Runway to Change page hawks goods from A-list talent: Jay-Z tees, Diane von Furstenberg totes, Proenza Schouler bracelets, and more.
All of the proceeds go to the campaign, and at checkout buyers are asked if they’d like to “round up” the total—and if they’re lobbyists or registered foreign agents.
In addition to outfitting the online store, Runway to Change designers held a fundraiser fashion show at designer Charles Nolan’s Chelsea studio during Fashion Week last September.
Outside of the Runway to Change banner, Vogue and Calvin Klein teamed up for an event with Michelle Obama last summer.
"I think [the industry] has been trying to get involved for awhile," said Nolan, the partner of longtime Democratic National Committee treasurer Andrew Tobias, and formerly one of the few designers to show his political stripes, having left his then-job at Anne Klein in 2004 to serve on the host committee of Howard Dean’s presidential campaign.
"Certainly now there's much more of a sense you can mix the political with fashion,” Nolan said. “Fashion's not just an elitist thing anymore—it's real."
The Runway to Change program started out as a grassroots effort by a couple of designers like Nolan not affiliated with the campaign. Once Team Obama heard about it, they brought the group under the campaign umbrella and started reaching out to more labels, attracting Beyonce’s House of Dereon and Juicy Couture. Two dozen of fashion’s big names now are attached to the project.
The campaign mandates that that all its products be U.S.-made and the vast majority be union-printed. Everyone involved had to document their donated time and all the clothing made by the couture names had to sell for $100 or less, with the profits going to the Obama campaign.
With all the love being showered on Obama by the fashion world, the question is, Does anyone on Seventh Avenue prefer McCain?
“No,” said designer Maria Cornejo, who contributed a t-shirt design to Runway to Change. “Or if they do, they keep it from me.”
Conejo must not run in the same circles as Hasselbeck, who told Politico that "I called the McCain campaign and told them I had a t-shirt concept.”
“I said they could take it and run with it if they wanted to,” said Hasselbeck, a Boston College art major with her own QVC clothing line due to roll out this winter.
“I hope people are wearing it and wear it proud,” Hasselbeck said. “I hear of people saying… 'Well I had this shirt and I was afraid to wear it.' Don't be afraid to wear it. This is America.”
There’s no such fear with Obama clothing, which Nolan said he sees on tourists and hipsters alike all over New York. And both he and Cornejo acknowledge the fashion-Obama relationship exists in part because both sides are keyed in on younger people.
"I hope it's done well," said Nolan about sales of his Obama wrap shirt, "but mostly I hope it helps the campaign."