The fortunes of the Trumps are interlinked, financially and emotionally—not that there is any difference between the two when it comes to America’s present First Family.
And so, on Tuesday, when Ivanka Trump announced she was shutting down her fashion line, it had everything to do with business and everything to do with family, everything to do with her father, and everything to do with Ivanka’s unwavering support for her father’s presidency.
The Trumps are a clan: they rise and fall together (even if Ivanka mocks her father’s hairstyle).
The closing of her fashion label is one Ivanka Trump is taking for her team.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, Ivanka was apparently “frustrated by the restrictions she placed on the company, IT Collection LLC, to avoid possible conflicts of interest” while serving in her father’s White House as a senior adviser.
Her father, meanwhile, never stops selling. He visited one of his Scottish properties, just after his recent, controversy-stuffed, blimp-starring trip to Europe.
“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 told the Journal. “So making this decision now is the only fair outcome for my team and partners.”
A spokesperson for the company told the BBC that the decision "has nothing to do with the performance of the brand and is based solely on Ivanka's decision to remain in Washington indefinitely.”
But it’s implausible that money and sales didn’t play a significant part in the decision. If she was still selling truck-loads of pastel sheath dresses, if stores selling her dresses and shoes were still on board with what she was selling, Ivanka would have been fine being as invisible as possible in Washington while her 18 minions in New York City toiled to sell even more pastel sheath dresses. Instead, those 18 people stand to lose their jobs.
Sales of Trump’s clothing line were high in the infancy of her father’s presidency, benefiting from the mostly positive media exposure she received during the campaign.
A spokesman for Ivanka diplomatically “attributed the decline to particularly high online sales in early 2017 because of ‘newfound awareness’ of the brand after Mr. Trump entered office.”
As far as women go, we all know what happened with that oh-so-bright “newfound awareness.” It became a migraine, one caused by Trump's misogyny and his administration's attacks on women—both likely deterring women from wanting to buy Ivanka’s pastel sheath dresses.
Sales of her line have dwindled in line with the transformation of Ivanka Trump’s public image. She is no longer seen, as she was at the outset of her father’s presidency, as the dutiful, beautiful daughter calming her father at his most tempestuous—the sensible liberal in a conservative hornets’ nest.
This public image allowed her to sell herself in her business as a working mother (albeit one of unimaginable privilege), who understood the fashion needs of other professional women. Her clothing website didn’t just sell outfits, it provided glossily-mounted, empowering maxims and micro-narratives around women’s careers.
Photographers were stationed outside her apartment in New York City, and later the family’s home in Washington D.C., ready to capture that day’s outfit.
Ivanka may have been forced to put her business, IT Collection LLC, in a trust run by family members, but, as the Wall Street Journal reported late last year, since becoming a presidential adviser in March 2017 to the end of that October, she carried on wearing her own-brand merchandise: 68 per cent of her social media posts during that time featured her wearing a piece of own-branded merchandise.
As her father’s presidency has advanced, and become ever wilder and uglier, Ivanka Trump has receded from public view.
Roundly criticized for faux-feminism merely as a storefront to sell from, from being front and center, Ivanka and embattled husband Jared Kushner —at least publicly—are rarely seen or heard from these days.
Far from being the liberal fire-dampener, bringing order and feminism-lite wisdom to the Oval Office, Ivanka Trump is now most popularly known by the damning SNL skit, which judged her “complicit.”
Her father is seen as anti-women (from his own desire to grab women by the pussy to the now widely held view that Roe vs. Wade is in peril), and Ivanka remains silent on it all.
Professional women watching Ivanka's lack of active advocacy may not have felt inspired to buy her clothes. Her feminism appears only deep and resonant enough to sell product, rather than actively engaged in the safeguarding of the rights of women. And her one LGBT Pride message seems pretty tepid in light of her father’s administration’s attacks on LGBT people and their rights.
Stores including Nordstrom and Hudson Bay have stopped selling the line, citing poor performance. President Trump said Nordstrom had treated his daughter “so unfairly.” Not even Kellyanne Conway’s improperly voiced recommendation on television last year that the public should buy Ivanka’s fashion line could save it.
“Neiman Marcus Group and T.J. Maxx in the last 18 months have scaled back or changed the way they display Ivanka Trump products,” the Journal reported. Online sales of the Ivanka Trump brand sold at Amazon.com, Macy’s Inc., Bloomingdale’s and Zappos.com fell nearly 45 percent in the 12 months to June, the Journal added.
Ivanka is said now to be considering a career in “public policy,” whatever that means.
Do not expect Ivanka Trump's dedication to her father to dim. When I interviewed her for Town and Country magazine in the infancy of her father’s presidential campaign in 2016, she said, “He's my father and I love him and I fully support him. I'm always there for him if it's helpful."
When she was 18 her ambitions were focused but narrow, she told me. "It was, 'I'm going to build x number of buildings.'" Her ambitions now, she told me, remain big "but much less specific, because you never know where life takes you or what opportunities will arise."
For a long time, Ivanka Trump has been involved in a precarious balancing act, and that was even before her father's election, and everything that has so far flowed from that.
But she has made one key decision. Whatever next acts Ivanka Trump has planned, they will likely not be in opposition to her father, whatever he says or does. Arguably, that alignment and fierce loyalty has now cost Ivanka her own business.
However, note that this business was physically based in, and grew from, her own role within the Trump Organization.
Now it’s gone, her new business—now political—is still her father’s. More than ever, and whatever its professional and personal cost, Ivanka’s destiny is inextricably fused with her father’s.