Among the designers that shot to fame after being tagged a favorite of First Lady Michelle Obama was Maria Pinto (others include Jason Wu, Isabel Toledo, and Thakoon Panichgul). Pinto is known for her elegant evening wear, and a purple dress of hers was chosen by the First Lady when President Barack Obama accepted the presidential nomination.
Now, along with other notable designers like Anna Sui and Nicole Miller, Pinto (a SAIC 1990 graduate) accepted the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Legend of Fashion award during the school’s 75th annual fundraiser.
Pinto, who first launched her line in 1991, declared bankruptcy in 2002 after the 9/11 downturn and after an employee embezzled funds from her namesake brand. However, she rebounded in 2004 when Michelle Obama became a regular client – "Michelle came in just like everyone else and said: ‘I need a few dresses. I need a suit for work,’ " Ms. Pinto told the New York Times.
In 2004, her line was also picked-up by luxury retailer Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue. Pinto then opened a Chicago boutique in 2008.
Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long, a past School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Legend of Fashion award winner, introduced Pinto, and the designer noted that she was speechless, saying that the award is very humbling.
Among the other attendees were Ikram Goldman, who has similarly shot to fame as Michelle Obama’s unofficial stylist.