For her first inaugural weekend appearance Thursday afternoon, Melania dressed with respect in joining the president-elect for a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Wearing a Norisol Ferrari military-inspired knee-length coat and coordinating sheath dress, the incoming first lady's ensemble was meant to pay homage to American military service members. The occasion was particularly meaningful for the New York City designer whose biological father is a wounded veteran who sustained lifelong disabilities in the line of service.
In an interview Thursday, Ferrari's said her first thought Thursday morning was, "God, I hope we can be a less angry nation."
Addressing the issue of designers who have publicly said they would refuse to dress Trump, Ferrari said, "I am absolutely opposed to discrimination in any way. I wanted to give her her own voice. Empowering women is all that matters to me. I do not discriminate whether for race, religion, color of skin, sexuality, political affiliation – what have you. No, I do not believe in it in any form."
Ferrari continued, "I really saw a person who is being misunderstood who is being scrutinized. She's a woman and a mother and I am pro-woman. That at the end of the day is very important to me – equality for women and for all human beings. If that's what I really believe, I had to do it."
Ferrari declined to say how she voted in last year's presidential election. "I don't believe that my political affiliation has any relevance in this appointment. The only thing I can say is that my biological family paid a very heavy price for this nation and that's why I did this," she said.
Ferrari was connected with Trump through her senior advisor Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who has been collecting the downtown designer's pieces for more than five years. Ferrari showed her first collection in 2009. Her husband Lawrence Lenihan, managing director and founder of FirstMark Capital, is her business partner. From their first meeting shortly after Thanksgiving, Trump was clear about wanting a "commanding, military-esque coat" for today's wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and I happen to make one. It's my strength – jackets, coats and outerwear."
Designing the bespoke New York made stretch cashmere ensemble was no small feat. She said, "It's been scary to make sure that I get it right, that I do my best. It's a part of history." (Her efforts must have measured up with Trump, since an ankle-length blue and grey cashmere and alpaca "Commander" coat was also ordered.
The designer said, "Someone who comes from where I come from doesn't get this opportunity. I'm an orphan. I'm an independent designer, female-owned business, a first-generation minority woman. People like me are dead. They don't survive, they don't strive, they don't get opportunities, they don't get ahead. Women in general don't get opportunities like this in fashion. I'm very fortunate to one have such a beautiful muse. She's striking and poised and kind. That part was easy. She made it very easy."
Not surprisingly Trump knew just what she was after for this solemn occasion. Ferrari continued, "In quiet, you can feel her kindness. She has an air of grace. That is hard to describe."
Asked what today means to her on a personal level, Ferrari composed herself and said, "Wow…I really don't want to get caught in the crosshairs of this. I did this for women. I believe the unity of women is the most important thing there is to talk about in the world because without us they have nothing."
An American citizen, Ferrari said she doesn't know a great deal about her family history. "I was given up by both of my biological parents. The only thing I do know is that we were invited here. We were not immigrants who ran underneath some fence to get through," she said, adding that her chemical engineer grandfather was invited to work in the U.S. where he was responsible for 150 patents. "All I know is that I'm Colombian and Venezuelan, and I'm fortunate to be alive."
Ferrari said, "It's an honor when any woman chooses me for her wardrobe. It's so important for me to arm woman in this world. A conversation that should never be relevant is, 'What is she wearing?' because it is never asked of men. We're constantly being scrutinized for our intelligence, our sexuality and what we wear. To empower women means everything to me – to field this world that is unfair to us."
With an afternoon medical appointment, Ferrari didn't plan to watch the wreath laying ceremony. "I'm going to the doctor and taking care of myself, which is something that women generally don't do. I'm going to try to do a little self care," she said.