Monday, September 12, 2011

First Lady Hosts National Design Awards Lunch

Tuesday: Mrs. Obama will honor America's design superstars at the White House...
First Lady Michelle Obama will host a luncheon for more than one hundred guests at the White House on Tuesday to honor the 2011 winners and finalists of the National Design Awards, given annually by the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Mrs. Obama is honorary patron of the awards, and the luncheon is her third annual celebration of design "as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world." Guests for the East Room event are expected to include fashion master Tim Gunn, co-host of Lifetime’s Project Runway and chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne Inc. A big fan of the First Lady's fashion aesthetic, Gunn was seated beside Mrs. Obama at last year's luncheon. (Above: Mrs. Obama and Gunn chat at the 2010 luncheon; table decorations included View-Masters, which guests put to use)

In the morning before the luncheon, Gunn will give the keynote address at a Teen Design Fair at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The event is designed to introduce high schoolers to careers in all disciplines of design.

Gilles Mendel, the creative mind behind the J. Mendel house and winner of the Fashion Design Award, is also expected at the luncheon. Mendel's gowns are sought after for red carpet events; he's dressed a bevy of A-listers, from Taylor Swift to Jennifer Garner. In February, Mendel was asked by "Do you have a dream client whom you would like to dress yet have not?"

"There are two," Mendel said. "Michelle Obama and Sophia Loren."

Mrs. Obama has worn the designs of Fashion Award runners-up Jason Wu--he created her Inauguration Ball Gown--and Prabal Gurung--but they are not expected to attend the luncheon.

Other expected guests at Mrs. Obama's luncheon include type artist Matthew Carter, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award; graphic artist/book publisher Steven Heller, winner of the Design Mind Award; and Kathryn Gustafson, one of the winners of the Landscape Architecture Award; Interior designer Jamie Drake; typeface designers Tobias Frere-Jones and Jonathan Hoefler; and graphic designer Steven Heller. All will also participate in the Teen Design Fair.

The National Design Awards were first launched at the White House in 2000 as an official project of the White House Millennium Council. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the Honorary Patron in the inaugural year, and First Lady Laura Bush continued the tradition. The annual awards recognize extraordinary contributions to design in ten categories: Lifetime Achievement, Design Mind, Corporate and Institutional Achievement, Architecture Design, Communication Design, Fashion Design, Interaction Design, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture and Product Design. The 2011 winners list is here.

*A post about Mrs. Obama's 2009 luncheon is here.

*Photo by Samantha Appleton/White House

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