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Designers lend their glamour to Obama campaign

Can President Barack Obama's campaign recapture the glamour quotient of four years ago?
/ Source: The Associated Press

Can President Barack Obama's campaign recapture the glamour quotient of four years ago?

Yes it can, says actress Scarlett Johansson — even if it's one designer tote bag at a time.

Johansson, dressed in a black-and-sheer Stella McCartney frock, lent her own glamour quotient Tuesday to a launch party for Runway to Win, a fundraising initiative from the fashion world. A creation of Vogue editor Anna Wintour, one of the top Obama fundraisers in the country, it brings together 27 designers who've made relatively low-cost items such as canvas tote bags and T-shirts with Obama images and logos, now being sold online, with profits going to the campaign.

Johansson pronounced them "wearable, beautiful pieces."

"To everyone I know with birthdays in between now and November: You're welcome!" she quipped to the crowd, which sipped wine, munched on hors d'oeuvres and, of course, shopped. Also addressing the crowd: Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, who urged guests to "Buy everything you can get your hands on."

Items piled on tables included a T-shirt designed by singer Beyonce and her mother, Tina Knowles, decorated with slogans such as, "I'm in!" (The shirt sells for $45.) A gray long-sleeved T-shirt by Jason Wu, who famously designed Michelle Obama's white inaugural ballgown, had a bird on a branch, in campaign colors (red, white and blue). A Marc Jacobs tee simply said: "I Vote Obama."

And plain old canvas totes gained a lot of cachet merely from the tiny labels on them: Vera Wang, Derek Lam, Tory Burch and many others.

Johansson, chatting with reporters, said it was important for the campaign to "reintroduce that kind of cool factor to the re-election."

She deflected a question about fellow actor Matt Damon, her co-star in the recent movie "We Bought a Zoo," who campaigned for Obama four years ago but has been quite vocal about his disillusionment this time around.

Johansson said the president is "fighting an uphill battle."

"He was always going to be a two-term president," she said. "Change doesn't happen overnight. It takes time."

She said she was even more enthusiastic than last time.

"It's so important that his vision continue," she said. "And the alternative is devastating. It just cannot be."

Wintour, wearing a Thakoon silk scarf ($95), said she thought fashion designers "can be very helpful" this election year — "As you see here tonight. These designers are going way beyond the call of duty. They should be working on their shows."

Scoping out the merchandise was one high-profile designer who can't vote in the United States — Frenchman Olivier Theyskens, of Theory, which lent its showroom for the event.

"Designers are like dreamers," Theyskens said. "So it's good for us sometimes to get into politics, into reality, into the real future. I can't vote here, but I can say what I think."

The Obama campaign says the merchandise has been created in full compliance with campaign finance laws.

Johansson had her own comeback to reported Republican concerns that the Runway to Win project might violate campaign finance rules if the items cost a lot more than they're selling for, saying of the Republicans: "They're so unfashionable!"

As for her own candidate, she said, he and his wife "have a casual cool about them. They're a very stylish couple."

Johansson sure looked great in her designer duds, but will she be attending shows during Fashion Week, which starts on Thursday?

"No," she said. "Fashion shows can be a little high-maintenance."