As rough as public opinion’s been on President Trump, things were going relatively well for Ivanka Trump. Even though it was clear from the start that the President’s favorite child was going to have some kind of as-yet-defined role in the White House while her husband, Jared Kushner, works as an unpaid senior adviser, she was still managing to cut a separate, less divisive figure.
She’d been on record saying that she didn’t always agree with her father’s political policies, and her personal website, littered with the slogan #WomenWhoWork, seemed in some ways to distance her from her father’s misogynistic reputation, which incited actions like the January 21 Women’s March on Washington. I saw plenty of signs at the Women’s March proclaiming “Free Melania” or “Fuck Trump,” but I didn’t catch a single sign smearing Ivanka.
But even as she makes some positive impacts—like reportedly dissuading her father from diluting Obama-era protections for LGBT workers—Ivanka’s personal brand might not be able to count on that warm narrative much longer.
The tone seems to have finally started shifting this week, when Nordstrom announced that it will drop Ivanka’s eponymous clothing and shoe lines from its stock. Though the decision is nominally chalked up to lagging sales, it still reads ominously for Ivanka’s own business holdings. (Like her father, she has also stepped away from a day-to-day role in the Trump Organization, although unlike the President, she will only receive fixed payments from the company rather than profits.) According to Women’s Wear Daily, the decision to pull Ivanka Trump products was due to poor brand performance, and deciding not to restock a line for a season or more is not an uncommon practice in the fashion business.
Still, dipping sales weren’t the only thing pressuring Nordstrom. The upscale retailer had been targeted by the #GrabYourWallet campaign, which urges boycotts of stores that sell Donald or Ivanka Trump-brand merchandise. Hashtag-driven retail activism may have limited impacts on large companies’ bottom lines—Amazon, which is listed for selling both Trumps’ clothing lines, doesn’t appear to be hurting—but it can still force executives to clarify their own positions and distance their brands from an unpopular Administration. Just look to last weekend’s #deleteUber campaign or the backlash against Taylor Gourmet founder Casey Patten’s meeting at the White House. The reported 200,000 users who deleted Uber are a tiny sliver of the ride-hailing company’s 40 million active users, and there are still plenty of lunch orders for hoagies. Still, the outrage was enough to force those companies to take some face-saving actions, like Uber setting up a $3 million legal defense fund for drivers who get caught up in President Trump’s travel ban, or Patten sending free sandwiches to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Until this week, though, it seemed that Ivanka Trump’s own projects were insulated from this kind of public scrutiny. While designers publicly refused to offer their wares to Melania Trump, few commented on Ivanka’s ongoing presence in their industry. For a spell, she was able to thread fashion with politics: Fashion critics praised the $158 pale, pink Ivanka Trump-brand shift dress she wore at the Republican National Convention for its reasonable price point. The dress quickly sold out after Ivanka’s Twitter account plugged it. But a similar promo for a $10,800 bracelet Ivanka wore during a post-election interview tanked. It seemed that, despite ethical concerns, her personal brand was destined to benefit from the massive publicity of her father’s presidency.
Getting dumped by Nordstrom, which helped Ivanka launch her brand in 2011, bodes even worse for the first daughter’s business. This isn’t a singular designer making a personal political statement, it’s a commercial giant slowly backing away from a name it thinks might be bad for business. Neiman Marcus followed suit Friday when it pulled Ivanka Trump’s jewelry collection. Whether those actions are the result of a real lag in sales or are publicity-based decisions, if two major retailers are dropping her brand, others—including Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Zappos, and Amazon—now have precedent to follow. And even if Nordstrom says dropping Ivanka was a “performance”-based decision, the company hasn’t been entirely apolitical, judging by a pro-immigration memo the company’s executives sent to their employees last week.
Who’s to say whether Nordstrom disassociating itself with the divisive Trump moniker is a surprise to Ivanka herself? Her brand, which offers mid-market ready-to-wear, most of which lands somewhere around the $150 mark, is built around marketing to young women who work. The line offers approachable, more conservative spin-offs of runway trends at a price points most women early in their careers can afford. A market like DC should be the ideal target demographic for Ivanka’s line.
But educated working young women with disposable incomes in fashion-forward urban areas are not the Trump name’s core constituents. Despite the relatively neutral status Ivanka has tried to carve out, and her attempts to ingratiate herself into DC society, her family’s name is massively unpopular in blue islands full of young, professional women with disposable income. It’s easy to imagine they would be loathe to wear a pair of heels with a Trump logo scrawled across the insole, or a handbag with the gold-branded placard that says “Trump.”
And even when she’s not repping her own brand, all of Ivanka’s wardrobe choices can be instantly politicized. Her Instagram post last weekend featuring her in a silver Carolina Herrera gown and Kushner in a tuxedo was immediately and punishingly raked over by social media.
Given Ivanka’s business acumen, let’s assume she anticipated her business could suffer from her father’s election. But what’s really shocking from the Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus developments is that they’re almost preemptive in the face of anti-Trump boycott campaigns.
Intentional or not, Nordstrom has put the word out there: the Trump name, including Ivanka’s, is bad for business.