Ivanka Trump has 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Ivanka Trump says in the ad that her father "understands the needs of a modern workforce" and is committed to changing "outdated labor laws" to support women with children.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," says Trump, 34, a mother of three young children, an entrepreneur and 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.”
As the New York Times further stated last April, “While Ms. Trump’s support for her father’s candidacy 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. But the question remains with the most recent damning turn of events for the Trump campaign: Will Ivanka’s own endeavors – namely, her fashion collection – survive a run for the white house?
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. 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, stocking $130 dresses at Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom and Macy’s and $250 bags and $160 shoes at 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.
Most recently, on the heels of the second Presidential debate, Ivanka's footwear collection has come under fire for its manufacturing practices. According to recent 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. 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. When asked why Ivanka avoids political comment, a person who works for her told the Chicago Tribune: "Both Republicans and Democrats buy Ivanka Trump."
Still yet, there are absolute ties between her brand and her campaign presence – 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.
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.
So, despite such obvious ties, Ms. Trump might not suffer extensively as a result of the campaign. Linda Ong, CEO of branding consultant TruthCo., is optimistic. Speaking to TheWrap earlier this year, she said, Ivanka “is safer by not conflating politics and business and keeping her opinions to herself. As long as she continues to stay true to [herself] and is seen but not heard, she’ll remain untarnished.”
On the other hand, Carol Spieckerman, another branding and retail consultant, believes Ivanka’s business remains particularly vulnerable in light of the campaign particularly in countries where her products are popular and where her father’s comments have caused outrage. "That's where I think the campaign could really hurt her," said Spieckerman. "So, I think she has to be even more careful and more deliberative in managing her image and brand abroad."
Rob Frankel, a national brand specialist, said it takes a lot to commit brand suicide: "Remember: Martha Stewart was thrown in jail, and that was not the end of Martha Stewart. She established a healthy brand." A Town & Country article, stated: “She enhances him, but he does not damage her.”
“Initially, when her father started to run for President, I wondered if there’d be a negative or positive effect,” said Sammy Aaron, vice chairman of G-III, who oversees the Ivanka Trump brand at the company, in addition to his role as CEO of its Calvin Klein division. “We’ve really seen very little effect.”
With this in mind, it seems entirely plausible that Ivanka may fare just fine. However, if 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 — is any indication, that certainly is not guaranteed.
Per Coulter, “I think [women] took particular offense, as I did, to the fact that Ivanka tries to make feminism a part of her brand but is standing by, as an official campaign surrogate, a guy who is an alleged serial sexual assaulter of women. The disconnect was too big. And they were ready to speak up about it and flex their consumer power about it.” And Coulter is not alone; her #GrabYourWallet hashtag currently boasts upwards of 2.2 million impressions.
Representatives for Ivanka Trump declined to comment for this story.