As the black jackets of secret service agents blended in with a crowd teeming with the black dresses of fashion publicists and the black shirts of waiters proffering bite-sized samples of ceviche, former Vice President Joe Biden and family slipped into Spring Studios on Tuesday night for a pre-fashion week party just as a DJ spun an Italo disco remix of Sébastian Tellier's underground dance hit "Kilometer."
It was quite an optic shift for a family whose entrance into a room just mere weeks ago would have been more associated with the national anthem, but this was not an official White House event. Rather, just in time for New York Fashion Week, the politician's daughter Ashley Biden was launching a new line of hoodies, Livelihood, produced in association with Gilt.
The political daughter has not traded in her day job as the director of the Deleware Center for Justice, but rather produced the collection to support her civic endeavors; all proceeds go to a Deleware Community Foundation program to support economic development in two needy zipcodes.
"I worked for 15 years in the human services, social justice space," she told W. "It took my love for social justice and my love for fashion and kind of married the two." All the resulting designs were sourced, produced and manufactured in the United States.
It was a noble gesture, but everyone—Rev. Al Franken, former The Apprentice contestant Kwame Jackson, socialite Olivia Palermo, Fran Drescher, Christian Siriano—was there to see "Diamond" Joe Biden in the flesh.
“My daughter Ashley’s commitment to public service, her commitment to trying to make the world better, is even more intense than mine has been," he said.
“Growing up Ashley had a chance to meet, because of my job as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, kings and queens and princes and presidents and prime ministers," the former vice president continued with typical flourish. "But she also traveled with me around the world and around the country into the barrios and the slums and very, very, very difficult and devastated neighborhoods, and the people who impressed Ashley the most were the active, committed civic leaders."
In classic Biden fashion, he caught himself up in the emotion of the story. "What she realizes is that, and what’s really impressed me, is that at the end of the day this all about dignity. It’s all about, as we believe and we hope you do, that ordinary people, given an opportunity, and I mean this with every fiber of my being, can do extraordinary things," he said, repeating the last phrase. "This is all about giving folks opportunity."
"Every single person in the world is entitled to be treated with dignity," he continued. "That’s what this is all about." Though he was speaking about his daughter's charitable inclinations, the line could easily apply to President Trump's—you might say undignified—attacks against many ordinary Americans. But Biden, if he had politics on his mind, did not directly address the president or the negative headlines surrounding the White House; instead, he ceded the spotlight to his daughter.
When she took the stage, she recalled how the project was driven by the loss of her brother, Beau Biden, the late Delaware Attorney General and National Guard major who passed away in 2015 after a battle with cancer. While her brother inspired her social work, he also encouraged her love of fashion. He was the "only man I had shopped with who encouraged me to buy just about everything I tried on," she said, joking.
Making the rounds was also "Snap Pack" ring leader Andrew Warren, a man about town who has received some tabloid attention lately for his close friendship with another political daughter, Tiffany Trump.
"We've been friends since we were three," Warren said of the second-youngest Trump. "She's such a nice, great person who hasn't done anything wrong personally. I don't think its fair for anyone to criticize her as a person. I don't think it's fair to be criticized for staying friends with someone either."
He added that he kept his own personal opinions to himself, and obviously wasn't above showing up to support events for political daughters of all stripes. Just as long as there are cameras nearby, it goes without saying.
Politics in general are sure to be a frequent topic of discussion at fashion week parties that don't even involve a former Vice President. Does the younger Biden think the fashion community should feel bad for partying so much in politically tense times like these?
"I think there’s a lot of pain, a lot of division, but life is short, so you also want to enjoy and to celebrate life," she said. "You can’t just continue to focus on the negative. I think you should be celebrating life and fashion and yourself."
By that point the DJ had transitioned into The Beatle's classic, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." Life goes on.
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