The Demise of the Brand Behind Ivanka Trump
A few years ago, I stopped by a Tuesday Morning store to buy some knick-knacks for my home. As I was perusing the aisles, I came across a bin of “for sale” items.
My eyes were immediately drawn towards a bright green patent handbag. I had always loved handbags and I already had a small collection so I had every incentive to purchase the bag.
I picked up the bag and was surprised to see a price tag of $40. I had thought the bag was more expensive.It had actually been marked down from $120 to $40. I was even more surprised when I glanced down at the brand label to see the name Ivanka Trump.
What was an Ivanka Trump handbag doing in the sale bin of a discount and off-price retailer store like Tuesday Morning?
As a connoisseur of handbags, I was naturally curious and decided to find out more about the brand that was Ivanka Trump.
The Quality of the Brand
The Ivanka Trump fashion company first launched with a shoe and handbag collection in 2010 before it moved into the apparel business. The brand was meant to intersect the line between budget and luxury.
According to Ivanka Trump herself:
I wanted the price points to be accessible, but ultimately we’re in the business of luxury, and these looks are consistent with that larger messaging.
Handbags and shoes from the Ivanka Trump line were sold in the range of $100 and up. Clothing was similarly priced. Quite expensive but still affordable for the average person.
The brand was initially sold at high-end US retailers like Nordstrom, Marshalls, and Neiman Marcus. These brands are synonymous with chain luxury department stores. Thus, it would be expected that the products sold were high-quality.
However, according to an article in Business Insider, the products were rather uninspiring. The shoes, clothing, and bags were heavily inspired by top luxury design houses such as Chanel and Celine but in terms of carving the brand’s own uniqueness, there was not much to go on.
I looked at customer reviews of Ivanka Trump products across online stores like Zappos and Amazon. Reviews were mixed overall.
A positive Amazon review of an Ivanka Trump handbag read,
This purse is beautiful! The quality is excellent and it is just the right size. This is the first time purchasing an Ivanka Trump bag but it won’t be my last!”
A negative review of the same product read,
Imported — but from where? Also, I want to “Buy American” Where was this made?
Indeed reports came in that Ivanka’s fashion brand relied on Chinese manufacturing for its handbags, shoes and clothing. In addition, her company had secured multiple trademarks from China.
This was not unexpected considering that most goods sold in the US are also manufactured in China. However Ivanka Trump had lauded her brand as affordable luxury and I am sure that her fans might have hoped that this would entail US manufacturing of her fashion products.
The Controversy of the Brand
Over a year and a half into the Trump presidency, there were calls for boycotting the Ivanka Trump brand. There were several campaigns going on against any product that had the Trump name on it. The campaigns actually started as a result of the notorious Access Hollywood tape featuring President Trump and his conversation with Billy Bush about women.
In 2017, Nordstrom dropped the Ivanka Trump line of products citing that it was due to its poor performance. Several other retailers followed suit including Saks Off Fifth, Burlington Coat Factory, Belk, and even Jet.com, ShopStyle and HSN.
President Donald Trump became especially agitated over Nordstrom’s decision and tweeted,
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
Nordstrom defended its decision saying that they were not taking a political stance and this was purely about sales. However the damage was done and the Ivanka Trump brand was moving towards it’s finale.
The Politics of the Brand
In 2018, Ivanka Trump’s fashion company officially closed its doors. Ivanka Trump’s statement on the shutting down of her brand was muted and low-key. She had already become a senior advisor to her father in the White House at this point in time.
I do not know when or if I will ever return to the business, but I do know that my focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing here in Washington.
The official word from the Trump team was that the shutting down had nothing to do with the sales performance of the brand. Instead, the shutting down was due to Ivanka’s move to Washington. Since the Ivanka Trump company was private, sales figures were also not released.
However, there was evidence that the sales performance was adversely affected. There was a 45% drop in online sales of Ivanka Trump products sold in Amazon, Macy’s and Bloomingdales in 2018. This was in contrast to a boom in sales in 2017 when President Donald Trump first assumed office.
The falling sales figures had a lot to do with the politics of the person behind the brand. In addition to boycotts of the brand, there was controversy over the promotion of Ivanka Trump products by members of the White House staff.
Ivanka Trump herself was accused of breaching the limits of ethics laws by advertising her fashion brand and wearing her own branded clothes and accessories during official government business.
After major department stores like Nordstrom’s and Neiman Marcus stopped their sales of the brand, discount retailers continued to sell the brand at lower prices. That was how I found an Ivanka Trump handbag for sale in a Tuesday Morning store.
In the end, I did not purchase the handbag. Not because it was an Ivanka Trump brand but simply because I did not have the budget for a $40 handbag. I had a different set of priorities for how I wanted to spend my money.
As for Ivanka Trump, now that her father’s administration is coming to a close in January 2021, there is the very real chance that she could decide to resurrect her fashion brand. That remains to be seen.