This June, the Hamilton Hotel revealed a revamped lobby, along with new hotel uniforms created by a young designer named Ashley Biden.
Yes, that Biden. If you haven’t been closely following the personal pursuits of the former Second Daughter, you may have missed that she now has a fashion brand, called Livelihood. Launched in 2017, it offers a collection of what it describes as “socially and ethically conscious” hoodies. Earlier this year, she quit her job at the Delaware Center for Justice to focus on her business. (She might also work for her father’s campaign at some point.)
The Hamilton uniforms were revealed at an invitation-only party in June, and while her dad couldn’t make it (Ashley’s mom, Jill, was there), the event was packed—certainly a buzzier affair than any other employee-uniform unveiling in recent DC memory.
The outfits themselves—zinged-up versions of typical hospitality-industry attire—probably wouldn’t pop on a Paris runway. But when we caught up with her at the event, Biden explained that she was going for something functional rather than ultra-fashionable. As payment, the Hamilton donated $15,000 to Livelihood, which gives its profits to charities in Anacostia and Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden isn’t the first political daughter to hatch a fashion line, of course, and recent history provides one obvious ex-ample of politics dooming a familial clothing brand. (Ivanka Trump’s label closed in 2018.)
But Biden’s business is different for a number of reasons. For one thing, Livelihood’s ambitions are modest at this point—there are no current plans to move beyond hoodies. (Biden does say that expanding into blazers isn’t out of the question.) And the goal is altruistic rather than entrepreneurial.
Still, politics is inescapable when your parent wants to be President. “As much as one might like to think their family name is not impactful to a brand, it is,” says CNN’s Kate Bennett, who has long covered the intersection of fashion and politics. “Of all the upstart, minimally retailed, marginally funded fashion labels, Livelihood is probably better positioned simply because Ashley Biden is associated with a political dynasty. But the scrutiny will be intensified because this is a divisive political time, and even something like a sweatshirt isn’t necessarily just a sweatshirt.”
This article appears in the August 2019 issue of Washingtonian.