Or is it the bland and uninspiring designs that were doomed from the very start?
Ivanka Trump: loyal daughter, political aspirant, fashion entrepreneur. Photo: ivankatrump.com
By Mao Shan Wang
American fashion isn’t in good shape; it looks as if the hems are fraying. Closures left, right and centre, including storied names such as Donna Karan, and rescue missions by non-Americans such as Raf Simons at Calvin Klein point to troubled times. Even New York’s fashion darling Marc Jacobs is nearing undone at the seams, it seems. LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault appeared to have accepted a rather declinisme outcome when he said, “I’m more concerned about Marc Jacobs than the U.S. President”, as Tweeted by Quartz reporter Marc Bain two weeks ago.
I, like many fellow contributors here at SOTD, do consider American fashion an oxymoron. Still, I watch the developments over there with keen interest, such as those at Ivanka Trump’s eponymous fashion label. A headline in the vein of “Nordstrom Is Dropping Ivanka Trump’s Brand” does arouse my interest. Lest it’s mistaken, I am no fan of the Donald’s determined daughter, but I am curious about her attempts at building a fashion empire, a la Tory Burch, which, like the later, are not based on changing the game, or hemlines. But at least Ms Burch has what can be considered a track record, and a look—even when boho (preppy or not) is now by and large a no-no.
Ivanka Trump’s Goop-ish website, without the advertising
Ms Trump, on the other hand, has mostly a hackneyed idea of what a working woman needs and that distaste-inspiring family name, which was used to launch the fashion line (initially just fine jewellery “for women buying for themselves”) that she founded in 2007. According to Racked, which four days ago also first reported that Nordstrom had dropped her line, her flagship store in Mercer Street of New York’s Soho “has quietly shuttered” in October last year. Could the closure of her main retail outlet be due to poor performance or part of her attempt at distancing herself from the business as she makes inroads into the political muddle of present-day Washington?
That woman has ambition, for sure (a Trump trait?), but style, that I am not quite certain. She looks attractive (“a piece of ass”, as her father concurred with shock jock Howard Stern in 2006), but that does not mean she is stylish. Much of what you want to know about her fashion aesthetic can be gleaned from her website ivankatrump.com, which seems to be modelled on those sites that are conceived to “help” women better their lives, such as Goop. What is it about marriage or motherhood that makes some women want to reach out to others (the “self-purchasing female”?) and teach them how to conduct their lives, or choose a dress? What is it about mothers at work that make them inclined to want to connect with other mothers at work to goad them into being better working mothers? What is it about having a baby that makes some women more entrepreneurial—a Tjin Lee-style expression of do good for each other and make some money in the mean time?
Screen grab of Ivanka Trump’s Twitter post that amounted to a sales pitch
Ivanka Trump’s doom in fashion was made when she rode on her family name to birth her label ten years ago, rather than bank on real talent in fashion design or retail. In fact, Mrs Jared Kushner has never made an attempt at playing down her maiden name in what she does; even her 2009 self-help book was called The Trump Card! It is tempting to surmise that Ms Trump has no friends because if she does, at least one of them would have alerted her to the salient fact that name (and fame) did not let Lindsay Lohan hand any glory to Ungaro (you remember that embarrassing stint?).
The problem is also compounded by Ms Trump’s constant appearance at her father’s side, particularly in the election year. Does she even have time to design (or oversee the design)? Her fate was sealed near the end of the campaign season last year when she Tweeted the day after the Republican National Convention—where she wore one of her retail dresses—the shameless encouragement “Shop Ivanka’s look from the #RNC speech.” The lack of subtlety, as many saw it, accelerated the tumble.
Clearly, not everyone likes daddy’s girl. Or she who uses daddy’s stage to sell her own wares!
While so many now see a First Daughter (really a political novice), I see a Barbie-esque woman who shares the same adjective as her father’s favourite charge: “fake news”. If you look at what she peddles, you see an individual disconnected with the ever-changing world of fashion, but wedged in a tired idea of what constitutes office wear. Does such a category even exist anymore? Just because you go to the work place regularly does not mean you have to look office-bound. As such, she fashions Ivanka Trump the label after herself. In her own office in the Trump Tower, she is the one who lays down the rules of dress. The thing is, how do you define Ms Trump’s look? You can’t. That goes for her label.
Ivanka Trump fashion is still hawked on some online stores such as Zappos and Macy’s. Photos: from respective online stores
In fact, dismal are the designs, as exceptional as her father’s shirts and ties at Macy’s—with the same appeal as what are plonked on his body… daily! Should the Ivanka Trump collection be yanked off the production line, it won’t be missed. When your looks appear to be based on the playbook of Forever 21 and the like, priced to appeal to those willing to pay more, people will forget it when tomorrow comes and the ho-hum does not hold up. I am especially shocked by the footwear: could they have been discards from Aldo?
Ivanka Trump is supposed to have put space between herself and her ventures. Amid questions swirling around like a chiffon skirt about what it means ethically for the Trump family to still run their businesses, she was reported to have said that she would not be involved in her own or her father’s. Yet, oddly, she has kept her photo—banner-style—very much visible in her same-name website. She looks, to me, cold in the softly-hued picture, but comely, a counterpoint to her dad’s crassness. If you look harder, as I did, you may sense an unyielding, not reaching out, quietly go-getting stance with dare-you eyes: a Trump personified, every bit her father’s proud, all-visible protégé.
Despite the calculated prepossessing physical qualities, Ms Trump could not halt the fading of her label. Some observers and members of the media attribute it to the gathering momentum of the #grabyourwallet movement, a grassroots effort that “tracks and boycotts retailers that sell Trump family products as well as corporate leaders who enabled the political rise of the Trump family through fundraising and/or endorsements.” But that, I think, is only a catalyst. Ultimately, a foundation of good designs could survive the storm. In the end, as her father’s sidekick with the aim of acquiring the highest security clearance for the White House, Ivanka Trump has only herself to blame.