You are here
Ivanka Trump shutting down her fashion brand
IVANKA Trump, US President Donald Trump's elder daughter and a top White House adviser, said Tuesday that she was shutting down her namesake fashion brand more than a year after stepping away from the company amid concerns over how Mr Trump's family might profit from his presidency.
In a statement, she characterised the move as being driven by a commitment to the work she is doing as part of her father's administration: "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, so making this decision now is the only fair outcome for my team and partners."
A spokesman for the brand said the process of winding down the company would begin immediately, that the brand's licencing deals would not be renewed and that its 18 employees would depart in the coming weeks.
Existing products will continue to be sold, but no new ones will be added for next spring.
Ms Trump's decision comes as the Trump administration threatens to escalate its trade dispute with China, where many of her products are manufactured. Clothing items are among the US$200 billion in imported Chinese goods that the White House has said face tariffs that could take effect as soon as September.
Abigail Klem, the president of the Ivanka Trump brand, said in an interview that the prospect of the tariffs had not played a role in Ms Trump's decision to shut down the company.
Since Mr Trump was elected president, members of his family have faced continuing criticism that they were exploiting his position to promote their personal interests. Ms Trump, a particular target of such criticism, stopped overseeing the company's day-to-day operations last year.
Opponents of her father's administration nonetheless called for boycotts of her products, and major retailers such as Marshall's, Nordstrom and TJ Maxx have removed her clothing and accessories from store shelves. This month, Canada's largest full-line department store chain, the Hudson's Bay Co, said it would stop selling her products.
Ms Trump's defenders have described the backlash against her as unfair and even sexist. Her critics have argued that her role as an adviser to her father has made her fair game.
When Ms Trump stepped away from her namesake label, her representatives highlighted the move as evidence of her commitment to distance herself from her business. But she retained a financial interest in the brand through a trust that gave her the authority to approve new deals.
The arrangement raised questions about whether she had gone far enough to separate herself from her business. Recent financial disclosures show that she earned more than US$5 million tied to her brand last year.
Ms Klem said that operating under such scrutiny and restraints had hampered the brand's growth potential and had contributed to the decision to wind down the company.
As an example, she cited a tentative agreement with Japanese apparel giant Sanei International, whose primary shareholder is a bank owned by the Japanese government, that fell through after The New York Times reported on the deal.
The brand has made some headway expanding overseas.
In May, China awarded Ms Trump several new trademarks. She plans to continue to seek additional trademarks to prevent others from profiting off her name, her spokesman said.
Two people close to Ms Trump said the main reason she had decided to close down the company was the difficulty it faced in promoting a brand so closely associated with her while she worked in the White House. Almost since the moment she arrived in Washington, there were questions about whether she and her father's advisers might be using her new prominence to advance her business interests.
Shortly after the election, people working on behalf of her brand promoted a US$10,800 bracelet she wore during an interview broadcast on CBS' "60 Minutes", prompting accusations that the Trump family planned to treat the White House as something like the cable shopping network QVC.
And when Nordstrom stopped carrying Ms Trump's products, Kellyanne Conway, one of Mr Trump's top advisers, did a television interview from the White House briefing room during which she implored viewers to support the brand. "Go buy Ivanka's stuff is what I would say," Ms Conway said in the interview with Fox News. "I'm going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody; you can find it online."
The endorsement drew a sharp rebuke from ethics experts. In a statement Tuesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group that has been especially vocal in questioning what it called the Trump family's blurring of business interests and government work, offered muted approval for Ms Trump's move.
"While this is a notable step in the right direction, it's a small one that comes much too late," the statement said, adding that Ms Trump had "reportedly realised that there were too many potential conflicts of interest to avoid, something many observers warned about from the beginning".
Since Mr Trump took office, emissaries for his family's business interests have insisted that the Trump brands have not been hurt by any backlash to the president's policies nor helped by the high profile the White House provides.
The Trump Organization, the president's family business, has effectively stopped making deals with billionaire business partners in far-flung locales. The company, which has said it would not pursue new foreign deals while Mr Trump is president and would subject many domestic ones to strict ethics vetting, has announced only one new hotel project since Mr Trump took office: a partnership with a family business in the Mississippi Delta.
And although the company continues to reap large sums of money from its hotel in Washington, the Trump name has been erased from once-prized properties in New York, Panama and Toronto.
Mr Trump's sons Eric and Donald Jr are running the family business while their father is president. Eric Trump told The New York Times last year that the company was doing "extraordinarily well", even as new development has slowed. "And if we have to take a break for an eight-year period of time or a four-year period, then it is what it is," he said.
As for Ms Trump, her brand was marketed to young women in the form of modestly priced handbags, shoes and dresses, and sold in major department stores. A licencing deal with the global clothing giant G-III gave her company added resources and extended its reach. NYTIMES