Rising stars in New York City’s fashion scape are on the receiving end of a presidential glow-up on Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Though it was the scene of a failed insurrection just two weeks ago, the U.S. Capitol was a stage for the country’s young, diverse, independent designers—not to mention a lot of purple.
Brooklyn-based designer Christopher John Rogers had the distinct honor of dressing the first female and first Black and South Asian Vice President Kamala Harris on the historic day.
Harris’ choice gave a resolute answer to fashion watchers wondering if and how she would use the poignant moment to champion diversity. Rogers, a young Black designer known for his exuberant use of joyful color inspired by his childhood in Louisiana, designed the VP’s wool coat and matching dress. On Instagram, the designer wrote “Thank you, Madam Vice President. We are so honored and humbled to have played a small part in this historic moment.”
Though classic and timeless in silhouette, purple was a powerful—and signature—statement by Harris. A symbol of unity and one of the Suffragettes’ colors, purple is a symbolic tribute to Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to run for president in 1972, and was used by Harris throughout her presidential campaign. Harris also wore the rich, regal hue to accept the Democratic nomination for vice president last year.
Former first ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton chose shades of purple for the ceremony as well.
Harris set the sartorial tone Tuesday night at a memorial dedicated to the more than 400,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus. She wore a camel coat with a pleated back designed by Pyer Moss, the New York label founded Kerby Jean-Raymond, a young Black designer of Haitian descent and an advocate for entrepreneurs whose businesses are reeling from the effects of the pandemic.
Fellow New York label, Markarian NYC, the luxury women’s wear brand founded by Alexandra O’Neill, confirmed it dressed First Lady Dr. Jill Biden in a matching ocean blue wool dress and overcoat and silk face mask for the inauguration.
Produced by Markarian’s small team in New York City’s Garment Center and hand finished by O’Neil in her West Village studio, the coat, trimmed with a darker blue velvet collar and cuffs, was worn over a tapered dress with a chiffon bodice and scalloped skirt. Swarovski pearls and crystals decorated the neckline of the dress and the coat.
The shades of blue, according to a statement from the designer, were chosen “to signify trust, confidence, and stability.”
Though Markarian has been worn by celebrities such as Kate Hudson, Beanie Feldstein, Constance Wu, Kerry Washington, Priyanka Chopra, Lizzo and more, Dr. Biden’s choice puts the up-and-coming label on the world’s radar. Founded in 2017, Markarian is known for making whimsical yet timeless fashion made-to-order in an effort to reduce waste—another signal that the new First Lady is making conscious fashion choices.
On Tuesday, Dr. Biden wore a purple wrap coat and dress by New York-based label Jonathan Cohen. Founded by Cohen, whose parents hail from Mexico, and managed with business partner Sarah Leff, the label aims for zero waste in its production.
Staying true to the tradition of wearing American labels, both President Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff dressed in Ralph Lauren.
Fashion statements filled the rafters as well, including some by notable European labels.
Poet laureate Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in history at 22 years of age, took to the podium sporting a youthful oversized red satin Prada headband. Ella Emhoff, Vice President Harris’ stepdaughter, wore an embellished check coat by Miu Miu.
Lady Gaga was drenched in custom Schiaparelli Haute Couture to perform the National Anthem. The drop-waist scarlet gown was topped with a fitted navy jacket and large gold dove brooch as a symbol of peace.
In a statement reported by Harper’s Bazaar, Schiaparelli creative director (and Texan) Daniel Roseberry said, “As an American living in Paris, this ensemble is a love letter to the country I miss so dearly and to a performer whose artistry I have so long admired.”
Jennifer Lopez, who performed a medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful,” wore a complete look by Chanel—a long tweed jacket, sheer ruffled blouse and sequin trousers in Suffragette white.
Country musician Garth Brooks balanced the runway looks when he performed “Amazing Grace” dressed in a down-to-earth blazer and blue jeans.