What do you associate Ivanka Trump with?
Nowadays, people associate Ivanka Trump with politics. She is a senior adviser in her father President Donald Trump’s administration.
But before her father became president, Ivanka was known mostly as a businesswoman. For over a decade, Ivanka even had a famous fashion empire.
But, surprisingly, it shut down in July 2018.
What happened? Ivanka blamed this on the fact that all of her time and attention now centered on politics.
“After 17 months in Washington, 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,” Ivanka claimed to the Wall Street Journal in July 2018. “So making this decision now is the only fair outcome for my team and partners.”
That’s a good line. In fact, it sounds very plausible.
But we’ve got the hidden story on Ivanka’s fashion line and what really led to its downfall. Here is the unknown truth of Ivanka Trump’s failed fashion line.
Ivanka’s fashion line
You might be curious as to what Ivanka Trump’s fashion line was all about. After all, it’s been several years since it was available in stores!
Ivanka appropriately named her fashion label “Ivanka Trump.” She started out by focusing simply on jewelry in 2007. Later, her line would move forward with fragrances, clothing, and shoes.
Ivanka seemingly thought her name was a powerful enough brand to create an entire fashion empire. Every great business has a core demographic. And her brand had plenty of competition. Therefore, Ivanka knew she would have to focus on a demographic that helped her brand stand out. But where would she look?
She didn’t look much further than a mirror. Ivanka focused her brand on the group she most identified with: millennials who focus on their careers.
Unfortunately, Ivanka is not really in touch with the average millennial. The critics held nothing back.
The critics attack
A critic at Racked claimed Ivanka’s line was “overpriced, poorly constructed, and unflattering on anyone who doesn’t share Ivanka Trump’s exact body type.”
It didn’t help that the specifics of the company’s demographics kept changing. For example, her first fashion line focused on affordable business clothing.
However, Ivanka also hawked super-expensive jewelry. This included a $10,800 bracelet that she wore on 60 Minutes in her father’s first interview after the November 2016 election. Her company was criticized for promoting the bracelet to journalists after the interview.
Eventually, her brand moved away from expensive jewelry and toward inexpensive accessories. But the damage to the brand was already done.
Millennials reject Ivanka
Ivanka began her fashion line by appealing to millennials. But she made the crucial mistake of appealing to millennials who were more like wealthy socialites.
In other words, she tried to appeal to people who were just like her.
Most millennials, though, are not wealthy. Things like major economic recessions permanently changed their future.
The millennial demographic is largely broke compared to previous generations. Ivanka’s big plan was to sell a cash-strapped generation a bunch of faux-wealthy clothing.
Basically, Ivanka’s aesthetic was “let them eat cake, but make it fashion.” Is it any wonder millennials rejected her brand?
Allegations of abused factory workers
The biggest blow to Ivanka’s fashion line PR came in June 2017. That’s when the Associated Press published allegations of “physical beatings,” “verbal abuse,” and other labor abuses including long hours and pay as low as $1 an hour at a Chinese factory used by Ivanka Trump and other fashion brands.
The factory’s name is Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co. The factory was investigated for over a year by a U.S. nonprofit called China Labour Watch.
China Labour Watch sent their findings to Ivanka, including a video taken from inside the factory showing a manager threatening to beat an employee. But they received no response from Ivanka, and she did not make any public statements on the issue.
The boycott begins
To hear Ivanka tell the story, her brand was doing just fine. She just had to step away to serve her country.
That’s a great narrative, but the reality is quite messier.
Well before Ivanka pulled the plug on her company, businesses like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom were pulling her line from the shelves. Their reason was as simple as it was startling: Ivanka’s items just weren’t selling.
Nordstrom announced it was dropping her line in February 2017. They released a statement saying that it was purely a financial rather than political decision: “Based on the brand’s performance we’ve decided not to buy it for this season.”
Why weren’t Ivanka’s products selling? It could be because of a boycott against company’s that did business with the Trump family.
In October 2016, shortly before Donald Trump was elected president, the online campaign called #GrabYourWallet was launched to boycott businesses that associated with the Trumps.
More companies such as Hudson’s Bay, Gilt, and Jet.com dropped Ivanka’s label, citing poor sales. But it’s possible the poor sales were due in part to the boycott.
The nail in the coffin
Over the next year or so, more and more retailers dropped Ivanka’s brand. So, the brand tried different things to stay relevant.
They tried dropping their luxury jewelry. And they tried selling directly to customers instead of retailers.
None of this, though, was enough to save the failing brand from ending once and for all. The controversy surrounding Ivanka’s family was a game-changer.
In June 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ivanka Trump’s online sales were down almost 45% year-over-year at retailers such as Amazon, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Zappos. The following month, Ivanka Trump’s fashion line announced it was shutting down.
With the political implications on top of the reports of abused factory workers, supporting Ivanka Trump was the last thing many millennials wanted to do.