When Melania Trump became America’s First Lady, she initially experienced a backlash from some of New York’s most revered designer names, as Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and more refused outright to dress her.
But three months into the role, Mrs Trump has started to set her own style agenda, and is building a trusted clique of talents to help her define her polished new signature look.
As well as buying off-the-rack pieces by designers including Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Alexander McQueen, Melania has introduced us to a roster of less familiar New York names - boutique brands and bespoke designers who perhaps haven’t experienced such exposure before.
One such name is Alice Roi, the 45-year-old Manhattan-based womenswear designer who founded her label in 1999 and has produced a series of nipped-waist coat-dresses for the First Lady. In turn, Melania’s wearing of Roi’s designs on the biggest of public stages has helped to bring her business back into the spotlight, after the designer took a hiatus in 2012.
Now Roi has spoken for the first time about her experiences of dressing the First Lady and helping her to hone her First Lady look.
“I think Melania has already begun to have an influence on fashion,” Roi tells The Hollywood Reporter. “There is nothing sarcastic about her style, nothing experimental. It is very true and solid. Her style is straightforward and traditional, but not dowdy or heavy. It remains light, elegant, clean and almost above-it-all."
“Above-it-all” has become a key sartorial principle for a First Lady who doesn’t want to worry herself about bickering designers or fleeting trends. She’s turned to a tried-and-tested silhouette which borrows from the Jackie Kennedy school of thought in her first few months at The White House, and so far it’s been successful in projecting the polished and powerful glamour she now strives for, even if at times she’s been accused of going too archetypal, like a ‘soap opera’ First Lady.
“Melania does favour a 1950s silhouette, in which the waist is emphasized,” says Roi of the pieces that she’s created for Trump to date. “It is not my usual go-to silhouette, but she nails it. It never looks literal or dated or forced. Rather, it looks like a refreshing, modern take on femininity and elegance."
It helps that Trump has known Roi for 11 years, their first collaboration being on a maternity dress when she was expecting her son Barron, now 11, after they met and “attended a few parties together”. Their work together has been natural and easy, according to Roi, who reveals that Mrs Trump has been heavily involved in the crafting of her own new image, right down to the pockets.
“The coat had many different iterations,” explains Roi of the back-and-forth between the two when developing a coat that she wore to travel to Florida on Air Force One last month. “Big pockets, notch collars, and at one point it looked like a proper hunting coat. But in the end, Melania wanted it simpler and simpler. And she was absolutely right. I think we work well together because she tames my narrative.”
“I guess the best word to describe [her new style] would be 'graceful’.”