It may be difficult, due to President Donald Trump’s unique superpowers of time dilation, to remember a time when first daughter Ivanka Trump was not perched on the right hand of the seat of American power.
Through the fog of our collective national amnesia, however, we are occasionally reminded that, before she served as assistant to the president, Ivanka Trump was basically an Uptown Kardashian, a celebutante with an Ivy League degree and a bevy of branded businesses under her charge—including an eponymous fashion line.
But the latest development in a trademark lawsuit filed by an Italian atelier last year threatens to pull Ivanka Trump from her pedestal, reminding Americans that before she became the most important voice in the president’s ear, her most notable career accomplishments involved marketing mid-tier sheath dresses.
In a decision issued on Friday, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest rejected a request by Ivanka Trump’s legal team to exempt the first daughter from testifying in a trademark suit against her fashion label—meaning that Ivanka Trump is headed to court.
The lawsuit, Aquazzura Italia SRL v. Ivanka Trump, filed in June of last year, alleges that the Ivanka Trump-branded “Hettie” sandal is a carbon copy of Aquazzura’s “Wild Thing” sandal, and accuses Ivanka Trump of “seeking the same success Aquazzura experienced but without having to put in the hard creative work.”
Dubbing the Ivanka Trump-branded sandal “the Infringing Shoe,” the lawsuit also accuses Ivanka Trump of “capitalizing on the goodwill and cache associated with Plaintiff’s luxury footwear... to create and sell less expensive imitations designed to give the appearance post-sale of having the prestige and exclusivity associated with the Aquazzura brand.”
The “Wild Thing” retails for $785 per pair. Ivanka Trump’s “Hettie” sells on Bluefly.com for $76.48.
In a declaration filed with the court seeking to protect her from having to testify, Ivanka Trump described herself as the former president of IT Collection, and asserted that “I had no involvement in the conception, design, production or sale of the ‘Hettie Shoe.’” Those responsibilities, she said, were under the purview of licensee Marc Fisher, who is also named in the suit.
“My involvement was strictly limited to the final sign-off of each season’s line after it was first reviewed and approved by the company’s design team,” Ivanka Trump said.
But Ivanka Trump’s declaration to the judge didn’t square with other public statements she’s made marketing her footwear line—apples and trees, et cetera—in which she said that she was “intimately” involved in the design of every shoe produced by her company.
“I focus not only on brand position and the direction of any given collection, but also on the individual product,” Ivanka Trump said in an interview with Footwear News, cited in the lawsuit. “I meet with all my partners separately to look at the execution and design... There’s not a shoe I’m not intimately involved in designing.”
It was this and other statements, Forrest said, that tipped the scales against Ivanka Trump’s favor.
“Ms. Trump’s public statements regarding active and comprehensive brand management lead to a reasonable inference that the shoe at issue would not have been released without her approval,” Forrest said.
“In such a situation, a deposition is appropriate.”
It’s not the first criticism Ivanka Trump’s apparel company has faced. Aquazzura alleged in the lawsuit that it has observed as least two other instances of infringement upon its designs in the past, and employees as the Indonesia factory in which Ivanka Trump’s clothes are manufactured have claimed that they face verbal abuse and starvation wages.
The deposition, which will be “limited to two hours” and may take place in Washington, D.C., will also put Ivanka Trump in a hot seat familiar to her father: attempting to square public statements inflating personal involvement in Trump-branded businesses with the professed unawareness of that business’ allegedly less savory activities.
A White House spokesperson did not return multiple requests for comment on Ivanka Trump’s behalf.