the fashion cabinet

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inside the nation’s best-dressed administration

After Barack Obama is inaugurated next week, he will surely have enough problems on his plate without being surrounded by a bunch of opinionated fashion-world types. But that didn’t stop us from wondering what his administration would look like if the key positions were filled by some of our favorite stylemakers.
— by Alison Baenen

Photo: Billy Farrell /

Secretary of State: Diane von Furstenberg

Since donning the mantle (silk jersey, in her case) of CFDA president in 2006, Diane von Furstenberg has handled the position with diplomatic aplomb, whether addressing concerns over malnourished models or shuttling over to London to reconcile conflicting fashion week calendars. And while Obama’s current pick for the appointment will most likely serve in a pantsuit, it’s for exactly this kind of lifestyle that von Furstenberg invented the wrap dress in the first place.

Photo: Marcio Madeira

Secretary of Defense: Thom Browne
Most designers settle for military-style flourishes on their clothes; few attempt to enlist actual military personnel. And though Browne was sadly rebuffed in his bid to cast Italian air force cadets in his Pitti Uomo debut this week, his show at the Istituto di Scienze Militari Aeronautiche still had a marshal quality. The designer told WWD that he was inspired by “the beauty in the uniformity,” adding, “Not having so much choice is what I find refreshing.” His first act as secretary? Reinstating the draft.

Photo: Patrick McMullan /

Secretary of the Interior: Peter Marino
With a portfolio that includes such competitive clients as Louis Vuitton, Armani, Valentino, Zegna, and Chanel, fashion’s favorite architect and interior designer clearly isn’t afraid to reach across the aisle. Plus, Marino would be the rare political appointee who doesn’t wait until he’s behind locked doors before breaking out the leather.

Photo: Getty Images

Secretaries of Agriculture: Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez
We shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Jack and Lazaro were preparing for Thanksgiving by raising their own livestock. It stands to reason that the downtown design duo would be hip to the locavore trend. This holiday season, the organic farm the Proenza Schouler boys own in rural Massachusetts offered 20 grass-fed, free-range turkeys for sale. If push comes to shove, we’re sure that pals like Mary-Kate Olsen will be only too happy to help work the land.

Photo: Steven Torres

Secretary of Commerce: Robert Duffy
From Dubai to Bleecker Street, Marc Jacobs boutiques move “more merchandise per square foot than Steve Jobs,” according to a 2007 article in Fortune magazine. And business head Duffy’s post-crash decision to cancel the company’s legendary holiday party shows he’s not afraid to make the tough calls. He’s also proven adept at weathering the storms of a tempestuous partnership (see: rehabilitation, start times, Marc Jacobs), a skill that would serve him well under any overworked commander in chief.

Photo: Greg Kessler

Secretary of Labor: Michael Kors

He’s Seventh Avenue’s resident taskmaster, having virtually run a designer prep school for the past two decades. Derek Lam, Peter Som, and Lazaro Hernandez have all been put through their paces in Kors’ studio before launching flourishing brands of their own. “[He] taught me American classics 101,” Lam has said. Meanwhile, let’s not forget all the career advice Kors doles out in his second job as a Project Runway judge.

Photo: Michael O'Neill / Courtesy of Vanity Fair

Secretary of Health & Human Services: Donna Karan
Karan’s devotion to yoga and green juice might seem slightly kooky to the non-karmically inclined, but know that this is a woman who puts her money where her mat is. Her Urban Zen Foundation recently donated $850,000 to New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center to fund a yearlong study on the effects of yoga, meditation, and aromatherapy on patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. That one act could have more of an effect than all the various health-care reform schemes that have floundered in Congress.

Photo: Jeremy Liebman / Courtesy of Condé Nast Traveler

Secretary of Housing & Urban Development: André Balazs

Housing crisis? Not on Balazs’ watch. Recession or no, the crisply dressed hotelier is opening his fourth Standard hotel, a glass behemoth that literally straddles the defunct rail tracks (soon to be a birch-lined park) of the High Line in New York’s Meatpacking District. If anyone can make it work, it’s the man who—between the Mercer, the Chateau Marmont, and other properties too boutique to mention—has been sheltering the fashion and movie sets on both coasts for years.

Photo: Donato Sardella / Courtesy of Chanel

Secretary of Transportation: Karl Lagerfeld
Chanel’s Mobile Art pod may have been grounded recently, but Lagerfeld still has more than enough qualifications for this post. He staged one collection in an airplane hangar in L.A.; he’s been known to zip around Paris in a pimped-out minivan; and he’s undaunted by the logistics of transporting trunkloads of clothes, photographic equipment, and iPods between his multiple residences around the world. What’s more, since purchasing a place in Vermont last year, Lagerfeld’s presumably become acquainted with the joys of the American road system.

Photo: Shaun Mader /

Secretary of Energy: Isaac Mizrahi
The perpetually peppy Mizrahi not only continues to design his peppy namesake line while preparing to unveil his debut collection for Liz Claiborne (orange! stripes! peppy!), he also finds time to post peppy videos about the whole experience on his Web site. Live-blogging meetings in the Oval Office could be Mizrahi’s contribution to the cause of transparent governance.

Photo: Neil Rasmus /

Secretary of Education: Tom Ford
Two words: Sex Ed.

Photo: Billy Farrell and Will Ragozzino /

Secretaries of Veterans Affairs: Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton

Charged with preserving the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s vast trove of fashion treasures—a stash of over 30,000 items—Costume Institute curators Koda and Bolton know a thing or two about honoring the past. For tips on political deportment, they need only look back at one of the museum’s own greatest hits, the Hamish Bowles-curated 2001 exhibit Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years.

Photo: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Secretary of Homeland Security: Emil Varda

The threat level is always elevated at the Waverly Inn, the Graydon Carter-sanctioned oasis for high-class carbs. To keep undesirable elements at bay, the Vanity Fair editor supervises the seating charts himself, while imperturbable, Kissinger-accented manager Varda trains a wary eye on the nightly throngs. Speaking to The New York Times, Varda disclosed that “B-list stars who call the paparazzi from inside the restaurant…are not invited back.” We feel safer already.

Photo: Courtesy of Anna Sui

Secretary of Justice: Anna Sui
A punk rock kind of gal, Sui was not one to sit idly by when mass retailer Forever 21 ripped off her idiosyncratic runway hits. After filing a copyright lawsuit in 2007, she arranged for guests at her Spring 2008 show to take home T-shirts emblazoned with mustachioed likenesses of Forever 21’s founders under a “Wanted” sign. That’s the kind of self-starter we need in Washington.