Ivanka Trump's Brand: A Casualty of the Trump Administration?

Categories:Fashion

Ivanka Trump emerged as one of the most striking figures in her father Donald Trump’s political campaign. As Emily Jane Fox, writing for Vanity Fair, noted in March: “The shining star of the Trump family ensemble is undoubtedly Ivanka, 34, Trump’s eldest daughter, who, despite being pregnant with her third child, has indefatigably schlepped across the country posting Instagram photos as she scrambles from campaign headquarters to diners to polling places to schools to senior centers.”

In addition to her presence and her speeches at her father’s events, Ivanka also served as the face of one of his September campaign ads. Speaking directly into the camera, Ivanka Trump said in the ad that her father "understands the needs of a modern workforce" and is committed to changing "outdated labor laws" to support women with children. "The most important job any woman can have is being a mother, and it shouldn’t mean taking a pay cut," according to Trump, 34, a mother of three young children, an entrepreneur and until recently, an executive in her father's real estate company. She has long been considered one of her father's most valuable assets.

The Trump campaign tested the aforementioned ad featuring Ivanka Trump in a focus group, and the result was "off the charts;" the spot is "one of the top performers we've ever seen," said an official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Vanity Fair described Ivanka well, noting that she is “beguiling, powerful, and hardworking, a proud mom and a devoted wife.” The New York Times described her as “radiating disciplined poise and practiced reserve.”

Julia Frauche

As the New York Times further stated last April, “While Ms. Trump’s support for her father’s candidacy on the campaign trail has been unwavering, his emergence as the Republican front-runner has not been without its complications for her.” The article’s author, Jonathan Mahler, was referring to the family business, The Trump Organization. One of the most striking questions in all of this: Will Ivanka’s own endeavors – namely, her fashion collection – survive her father's run for the White House and subsequent presidency?

Yes, when Ivanka’s not on the twenty-fifth floor of Trump Tower, working alongside her brothers, she holds the reigns on the twenty-second floor, the home of her Ivanka Trump brand, complete with a clothing and accessories collection and a lifestyle website that offers advice on beauty and parenting, and a series of profiles called #womenwhowork - until she stepped down as CEO (albeit temporarily) and relocated to Washington, D.C., that is. 

The fashion, jewelry and digital lifestyle enterprise, which she launched in 2007, generated $100 million in revenues in the last fiscal year, according to G-iii, the $2.3 billion apparel giant that manufactures and distributes Ivanka’s wares.

Her collection itself – which sits in the contemporary market, and until recently boasted a list of stockists that included Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Zappos – has come under fire in the past. In March Italian footwear brand Aquazzura publicly called out Ivanka Trump collection for copying its best-selling Wild Thing shoe.

Aquazzura subsequently filed a strongly worded complaint in a lawsuit against Trump’s company for trade dress infringement, alleging that Trump and its footwear licensee Marc Fischer “mimicked every key element of the trade dress of Aquazzura’s well-known and distinctive” Wild Thing style shoe. That lawsuit is still pending in federal court in New York.

In March, Ivanka Trump's line of shoes, clothes and accessories was removed from the Trump Organization's main site as critics pointed out that much of her merchandise is made in China or other foreign countries even as her father bashes U.S. companies for moving work overseas.

More recently, Ivanka's footwear collection came under fire for its manufacturing practices. According to reports, the Chinese factory at issue, Xuankai Footwear Ltd., which has produced Trump-brand footwear, requires laborers to work lengthy shifts stretching up to 16 hours that tested and exceeded the limits of human endurance. Some workers have alleged that the factory paid illegally low overtime rates and systematically delayed wage payments.

But these instances are arguably small change compared to the damage that Ms. Trump could potentially be doing to her brand in the eyes of many consumers due to her connection with her father’s highly controversial campaign and even more controversial presidency. She has undoubtedly been careful; she projects an image of daughterly respect and support for her father without aligning with his theatrics and more outrageous statements, and has been sure to divorce her political life with that of her brand – her social media feeds, for instance, are notably politics-free. 

Still yet, there are absolute ties between her brand and the Trump Administration – literally and figuratively. Take, for instance, the garments and accessories she wore to the Republican National Convention, which she documented on ivankatrump.com: The shoes, handbag, jewelry and blush pink frock were all from her collection. The company strategically tweeted a link for consumers to buy a similar dress to coincide with the convention; the $139 dress sold out in less than 24 hours. The “Floral Party Dress” she wore on The Today Show just prior to the convention sold out in most sizes, as well.

Julia Frauche

And consider that although Macy's dropped Donald Trump’s lines of ties and suits after his less-than-complementary remarks about Mexicans, the retailer continues to sell Ivanka's products. With this in mind, it seemed entirely plausible that Ivanka might fare just fine, but a slew of recent developments strongly suggest otherwise. 

Last week, reports surfaced that Neiman Marcus has stopped selling Ivanka Trump's jewelry line on its website and stores in New Jersey. A spokesperson for Neiman Marcus said on Friday that its “very small” Ivanka Trump jewelry business is carried, like everything else, “based on productivity.” 

The news came a day after Nordstrom confirmed that it is winding down its relationship with the Ivanka Trump brand. A Nordstrom spokesperson told Reuters that the company did not buy the Ivanka Trump brand for this season based on its performance. Her line disappeared from Belk’s website over the weekend, as well. And now, Macy's is reportedly facing pressure to drop Ivanka Trump’s line. 

Nordstrom’s decision to stop carrying the First Daughter's eponymous label came after the swift rise in the #BoycottIvanka and #GrabYourWallet movement on Twitter — which is being pioneered by Shannon Coulter, a San Francisco-based brand and digital strategist and calls for individuals to "vote with their wallets" and boycott all of the retailers stocking Ivanka Trump's apparel and accessories. 

The Ivanka Trump brand is, however, projecting an image of business-as-usual. The brand recently added baby bedding and fashion jewelry, and has seen year-over-year sales growth from 2015 to 2016, Rosemary Young, senior director of marketing at the brand, said in an e-mailed statement.

“The Ivanka Trump brand continues to expand across categories and distribution with increased customer support, leading us to experience significant year-over-year revenue growth in 2016,” Young said. “The strength of a brand is measured not only by the profits it generates, but the integrity it maintains.”

But as more and more brands continue to respond to consumer outrage and boycotts by disassociating themselves with the Ivanka Trump collection, it appears as though Trump's brand may not actually withstand the Trump White House, after all. 

Representatives for Ivanka Trump declined to comment for this story.

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