After copying a number of Aquazzura’s best-selling footwear styles and getting called out – and then sued – for it, the Ivanka Trump brand is channeling Chanel. The First Daughter’s New York-based label, from which she formally stepped away (albeit temporarily, for the duration of her father’s presidential term), is offering up a dead-ringer of Chanel’s Goatskin and Grosgrain Slingback Pumps, an iconic shoe that has taken over the fashion industry and Instagram in the relatively recent past following its initial introduction by Ms. Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, herself, in 1957.
Trump’s version, which bears the exact same two-tone color scheme and specific slingback strap design, comes at a cool $125. That is a whole lot cheaper than the $765 Chanel version. One of the only striking differences, visually speaking, between the two brands’ shoes: Chanel’s bears small double “C” logos on the outside of the block-heel. (It seems the Ivanka Trump brand’s licensee Marc Fisher knows how to escape liability for counterfeiting and liability more generally due to the largely generic slingback design).
Unsurprisingly, Ivanka Trump’s Liah Slingback Block-Heel Pumps – which are currently available for sale on Macy’s, Zappos, and Bloomingdale’s e-commerce sites – are only selling out in one specific color-way: The tan and black version … aka the one that most closely mirrors the real thing.
In other less-than-shocking news, Ms. Trump, herself, has taken to promoting the slingbacks. She stepped out in them this week and caught the attention of the media, including the Daily Mail, which in addition to its coverage of the 36-year old presidential advisor provided a link to purchase the footwear, which is, of course, currently available for sale. Such coverage is customary for this site and others to do when they identify the make and model of a garment or accessory that a subject is wearing.
This harkens back to a class action complaint that was filed against Ivanka Trump’s brand by a California apparel company last year. In its complaint, San Francisco-based Modern Appealing Clothing alleged that since the election, the Ivanka Trump brand and its employees have “promoted the Trump brand by exploiting the power and prestige of the White House for personal gain, including but not limited to, piggy-backing promotion of appearances at executive brand and other governmental events.”
The lawsuit, which has since been settled, further asserted that Ms. Trump’s brand has gained a significantly “unfair advantage from Donald J. Trump being the President of the United States and from Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared, working for the President,” including by way of media attention just like this.
But Ivanka Trump (and other members of the Trump administration) wearing and explicitly endorsing her brand is hardly a novel phenomenon. In fact, as the Wall Street Journal highlighted in January, the Trump administration simply will not stop promoting Ivanka’s brand, and might be running afoul of federal law as a result.
As Democracy Forward, a nonpartisan watchdog organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas and challenges unlawful actions through litigation, declared in a formal letter to the Office of Government Ethics early this year, Ms. Trump is the latest member of the administration to run afoul of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations by using her position as a highly-ranking government employee to promote her fashion brand.
Democracy Forward’s most central claim in its letter to David J. Apol, Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics, stems from 5 CFR 2635.702, the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.
Listed under the heading, “Subpart G—Misuse of Position,” the statute states that a federal employee “shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.”
It is unclear if the Office of Government Ethics will take action against the First Daughter in connection with her consistent promotion of her namesake label, and has not yet responded publicly to Democracy Forward’s letter.