At a T.J. Maxx discount shop in the shadow of New York’s Queensborough bridge, there’s little sign of Ivanka Trump’s fashion label. But she’s there.
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Dangling next to a bright red Fossil handbag is a single, blush-leather Ivanka Trump satchel. A flip of the tag reveals a $US129 ($173) price, about the same as the other bags on the rack. Spread among the jumble are items by Guess, Nine West, Steve Madden, and even a decidedly cheaper option from the Jessica Simpson Collection.
None of this screams luxury, yet that’s the brand image Trump, 35, originally envisioned: An icon of extravagance similar to what her father spent decades trying to build.
When she began selling her brand as a fine jewellery label, she looked to Tiffany’s robin egg-blue box and Christian Louboutin’s red-soled pumps for inspiration. She placed Trump wares in the same realm as such storied couture names as Harry Winston and Van Cleef & Arpels. She even opened an opulent boutique on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue.
Somewhere along the way, though, Ivanka Trump went downmarket. Her label now represents a much more modest image, perhaps recognising exactly where on the retail continuum her products truly reside.
At its heart, Ivanka Trump is a celebrity brand, not a designer fashion house, industry analysts say. It’s the messy discount rack, not the gleaming glass jewellery case. Her company’s moves over the past few years reflect that. And as it turns out, targeting the masses has worked.
“Celebrities, as a branding tool, appeal more to the mass than luxury,” said Allen Adamson, the New York-based founder of consulting firm BrandSimple. “The further downmarket she goes, the more horsepower her brand potentially has.”
The pivot began in late 2010, when Trump started her footwear and clothing businesses. She chose to go after a much-less-glossy group of people, discarding four-digit pricetags in favour of numbers more on par with the broader market.
Her father Donald Trump’s election to the White House last year accelerated that shift. After losing her most glamorous retail partners amid the controversies and boycotts that have marked her father’s tempest-tossed administration, she halted production of the diamond jewellery that was her only remaining fashion business.
Her executives decided to nix the Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry Collection in March in order to create a more cohesive brand. Gem-laden necklaces at $US10,000 didn’t make a whole lot of sense for a brand that also peddles discount heels at a low-price shoe warehouse. In its place is a “fashion jewellery” collection sold at Lord & Taylor stores and online. There’s no solid gold or diamonds: Some items are available on sale for as little as $US11.