This is the latest installment in a series of obituaries for late clothing retailers and the symbols they once provided, including American Apparel (which has since come back to life) and the Abercrombie and Fitch logo.
Ivanka Trump’s namesake fashion brand, a multimillion-dollar women’s retailer whose shift dresses say, in a vocal-fried purr, “Yeah, I guess I have to go to this bridal shower…?”, is shutting down.
Its founder, who branded herself as a woman who works, spent the past two years trying to become a woman who multitasks, only to discover that this made her a woman with conflicts of interest. So, turns out you can’t have it all.
Born as a fine jewelry line in 2007 and introduced in its modern iteration as an apparel and accessories company in 2014, the Ivanka Trump brand enjoyed a late-in-life boost during the 2016 election when Ivanka’s father, a failed frozen steak peddler who began his political career by carnival barking the racist conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, glided down an escalator to the tune of “Rockin’ in the Free World” and rode it all the way to the White House.
For years, IT Collection LLC thrived, due in no small part to three key components of any classic American success story: Nepotism, synergy, and overseas manufacturing.
Ivanka wore items from her eponymous line to the Republican National Convention and to a 60 Minutes interview the week after the election, an appearance that came with a “style alert” from Ivanka Trump Jewelry Fine Jewelry about the $10,800 bracelet viewers could purchase for themselves. Fast Company reported that “net sales of just the clothing arm of the company were up $11.8 million during the first 6 months of 2016” and that traffic to Ivanka’s website had jumped 50 percent over the previous year.
But these have been trying times for so many, like the thousands of people in Puerto Rico who, ten months after Hurricane Maria, still do not have power, and also for Ivanka Trump, whose brand has been assailed by boycotts and dwindling sales. Last March, Ivanka shut down her fine jewelry line, citing a populist desire to focus on “solution-oriented products at accessible price points.” (A piece from the fine jewelry collection would have set you back anywhere between about $2,000 and $11,000.)
By early 2017, several retailers, including Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, had dropped the Ivanka Trump brand entirely; T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s employees were instructed not only to pull all Ivanka’s wares from featured shelves and stick them on regular racks (the economy class of the discount floor) but to chuck all Ivanka Trump signage in the trash.
Though these retailers gave apolitical, euphemistic explanations for the display-to-dumpster trajectory of Ivanka’s offerings — “we make buying decisions based on performance,” “brands are featured based on a number of factors” — since October 2016, the line has been the target of an organized boycott, #GrabYourWallet, named as an homage to the poetry with which then-candidate Donald Trump described his preferred method of sexually assaulting women.
Then again, maybe the clothes were just ugly? See, this is why it is so crucial to have a fallback career. Or, as Ivanka announced, “I do know that my focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing here in Washington.”
The Ivanka Trump company was nine years old. It is survived, at least for now, by Ivanka’s burgeoning career in public service — she’s an unpaid senior advisor in her father’s White House; technically speaking she has not accomplished any of the things she said she was going to do, but hey, you get what you pay for — as well as the emoluments clause, and federal ethics laws.
A pink dress, a red flag
How was anyone to know that, should her father ascend to the White House, Ivanka Trump would use this platform as a sort of taxpayer-funded QVC for apparel sold almost exclusively in the shades Caucasian women’s cheeks turn after drinking too much rosé?
The red flag came in the form of a pink dress. At the Republican National Convention in July 2016, Ivanka wore two items from her own brand: The Ivanka Trump Floral Party Dress, which retailed for $158 and quickly sold out, and a rubber-eraser colored sleeveless sheath that, like her dad’s presidency, was not yet available to the masses, but would be soon!
Ivanka documented her RNC experience on her official website (it was “undoubtedly… the biggest moment in my family’s life to date”), featuring photos with captions that listed each article from the Ivanka Trump Collection along with links to sites where those outfits could be purchased. She also tweeted out a link to the same information so her followers could “shop the look.”
Summer soured into fall. In September, the FBI released its report on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and that was the last anybody heard about that, forever and ever, until the end of time. In October, the Washington Post published a tape from Access Hollywood, in which the GOP nominee for President of the United States of America could be seen and heard bragging about the joys of sexually assaulting women with such delicious phrases as “I moved on her like a bitch” and “grab ’em by the pussy.”
Three days later, Shannon Coulter and Sue Atencio announced a boycott of any retailer that carries Trump products — including Ivanka’s — “with the goal of motivating those companies on the list to stop doing business with the Trump family.” They called it #GrabYourWallet.
Meanwhile, Ivanka’s dad won the presidency.
A few days after the election, she joined him and the rest of the first family-elect for a 60 Minutes interview, during which she wore a $10,800 bracelet from Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry. Fashion journalists received a “style alert” by Monica Marder, vice president of sales for Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, letting them know that Ivanka was wearing “her favorite bangle from the Metropolis Collection.”
“Please share this with your clients,” Marder wrote.
As Inauguration loomed, Ivanka stepped down from the management and operations of the company. Through a trust, she still retained her ownership.
A turn for the ‘Terrible!’
Ivanka Trump had watched her father be president for all of two weeks when she saw her namesake brand get dumped by Nordstrom. The department store attributed the decision to lousy profits, not politics, saying that “each year we cut about 10 percent” of the “more than 2,000” brands they carry. “Based on the brand’s performance, we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”
But that same week, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores instructed employees to throw signs for Ivanka Trump products into the garbage. As the New York Times reported, an email from management demanded “all Ivanka Trump merchandise” be removed from the racks “immediately.” The next day, Neiman Marcus ditched the Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry line, also citing poor sales. Belk department stores cuts all Ivanka Trump merchandise as well.
In response to the Nordstrom drop, the Ivanka Trump brand issued a statement that read, in part, “We believe that the strength of a brand is measured not only by the profits it generates, but the integrity it maintains.” And then, as is his standard operating procedure, Ivanka’s dad tweeted. His message, sent from his personal account, was retweeted by the official @POTUS account.
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
For a man who is pathologically obsessed with borders and the policing thereof, President Trump wound up being totally lax about the line between public office and private enrichment — namely, that you can’t use the former to benefit the latter.
Richard Painter, a former chief White House ethics counsel under George W. Bush, told the Washington Post in an email that Trump’s tweet constituted a “misuse of public office for private gains.” (Painter is involved in a lawsuit alleging President Trump is in violation of the emoluments clause, which forbids presidents from accepting gifts from foreign governments. Their argument: By maintaining a stake in his hotels and other businesses, Trump is breaking the law forbidding presidents from accepting gifts from foreign governments.)
“I have never seen a senior administration official lash out at a particular company based upon a strictly personal grudge,” Painter told the Post.
Norm Eisen, chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington who was the tops ethics counsel under Obama, agreed. “This is the behavior of a Mafia don defending his turf, not the president of the United States,” he told MSNBC.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (RIP) insisted the whole matter was being blown out of proportion, that this was “less about his family’s business and an attack on his daughter… He has every right to stand up for his family and applaud their business activities, their success.” Does he though?
The next day, Kellyanne Conway, senior advisor to the president and inventor of the Bowling Green Massacre, made a Fox & Friends appearance via satellite from the White House briefing room and told viewers, “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff!”
In case there was any confusion about what she was doing, Conway literally said, “I’m just gonna give a free commercial here.”
Did not one lost soul jammed into this clown car of an administration do the reading before they came to class?
But wait, there’s more:
What’s more embarrassing: Violating federal ethics law, or getting a (definitely illegal) free advertisement from inside the White House and still not being able to sell enough moderately-priced peplum tops to keep your brand alive?
Not looking good
In the end, was it all about appearances?
Ivanka did little to aid her own optics. She infamously posted a black tie date night photo the same day her father’s executive order banning travelers and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States took effect. It was a picture that would make the rounds again when people pointed out that her crinkled silver dress made a perfect “who wore it better” side-by-side with the space blankets covering migrant children held in cages at the border.
Who wore it better: Children detained in McAllen, Texas or Ivanka Trump pic.twitter.com/atifVrteeY
— Orli Matlow (@HireMeImFunny) June 18, 2018
But what about the fashion? Setting aside, for a moment, the clothes that seem designed to haze their wearer (“How bad your pelvis area will look in this will be dwarfed by how weird your ass will look“), much of Ivanka’s items were offensive only insofar as they were utterly inoffensive. Beige outfits for beige people.
Choosing an Ivanka Trump item used to be a non-choice. But now all our choices seem almost absurdly fraught, every purchase a declaration of our values. Who wants to be seen wearing Ivanka Trump clothes? Some women who already own her products say “they feel guilty” for having them and want to “soul cleanse” by purging Ivanka from their closets. As Garage fashion features editor Rachel Seville Tashjian put it on Twitter, “In reality… no one wants to wear fascism like, as a brand.”
When you’re Ivanka Trump and it’s 2008 and people generally think of you as a husky voice of pseudo-expertise on your dad’s kitschy reality show — that is, when they think of you at all — buying your brand is like buying the vague idea of a professional woman. It calls no attention to itself, positive or negative; it invites neither praise nor disdain.
When you’re Ivanka Trump and it’s 2018 and you have failed to be that “moderating” influence you never were and were obviously never going to be; when the President has pulled our country out of the Paris climate agreement like a teenager using the only form of birth control your dad’s idea of a health care plan would actually cover; when it comes out, during “Made in America” week, that your fashion line is produced exclusively overseas, largely in Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Bangladesh; when it is clear that your idea of feminism is to help, like, seven wealthy, married, white women at the expense of everyone else, and one of those women is you; who wants to be you, then?
Not enough people, apparently, to keep that brand alive. Not for now, and maybe not ever. And maybe Ivanka can tell. As she put it in her statement, “I do not know when or if I will ever return to the business.”