Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Now that Ryan Lochte has stopped distracting everyone with his...grills, can we take a moment to discuss Michael Phelps' mom? Practically every cut to Debbie Phelps during this summer's coverage spotlighted a different suite of very large, very heavy-looking jewelry—very Chico's-looking jewelry. It almost felt like product placement. So is Mama Phelps getting in on the Olympic endoresments?
Well, it's complicated.
Debbie Phelps did in fact ink a deal with Chico's back in 2008. After saying in an interview that she stocked up at her hometown Chico's outpost before heading to Beijing to cheer on her son, the brand made her an official ambassador. After the Olympics, she reportedly made somewhere in the low six figures for appearing in Chico's catalogs and wearing the brand during public appearances, including The Oprah Winfrey Show.
So, given her prominence in this summer's Olympics coverage and her obvious personal loyalty to the brand (not to mention her, er, openness to endorsement deals—have you seen this Subway commercial?), now would seem like an obvious time for a Phelps-Chico's reunion.
However, despite the fact that Phelps looked very Chico's-y throughout the entirety of the 2012 Olympics, and there are still mentions of the "Debbie Phelps look" on the brand's website, Chico's has confirmed that their relationship with Phelps is purely unofficial at this point. "Debbie Phelps is a longtime and valued Chico's customer. Chico's is not affiliated with, nor does it sponsor, Debbie Phelps, but we deeply appreciate her continued support of the brand," they told us. They declined to comment on when and why the relationship ended.
So, where is she getting all that statement jewelry from, then?
Well—and here's the weird part—Chico's. The brand acknowledged that Phelps wore "a lot" of Chico's during the Olympics, and though we weren't able to confirm specific looks, we've seen our own mom's Chico's wardrobe and it look pretty much exactly like that.
So it would appear that first Debbie Phelps wore Chico's because she loved it, then she got paid to wear it, then she stopped getting paid to wear it, and now she just wears it because she loves it again. Which is actually rather admirable, as far as endorsement deals go.
· Chico's [Official site]
· Diane Keaton for Chico's