Ivanka Trump is closing down her fashion brand.
No longer will we be able to buy sophisticated, but appropriately-priced workwear that seemed like it was pulled from Ivanka Trump’s own closet. Gone are the days when we can snap up a pair of the brand’s sensible kitten heels made in a Chinese factory with questionable workplace standards.
It’s unclear exactly what killed the Ivanka Trump brand, which launched in 2014. Over the last few years, it’s had ups and downs, connected to Donald Trump’s political rise. All of the Trump family’s businesses have been the subject of much scrutiny since Donald Trump announced he was running for president, but none more so than Ivanka Trump’s line of clothes, shoes, and jewelry.
While Ivanka Trump formally separated herself from the brand to become an advisor in her father’s White House, she regularly wore clothes from her collection to official meetings, which led tabloids to write about each outfit choice, effectively promoting her brand. This seemed to be good publicity for a while: According to the Wall Street Journal, sales of the Ivanka Trump brand did very well in the year of the 2016 election.
However, when Donald Trump entered office, many political observers and concerned citizens had questions about whether the Trump family would use political office for personal gain. All of this prompted a massive boycott effort from people who believed this was an ethical violation. Over the last year, the brand’s online sales through Amazon, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Zappos dropped by nearly 55%, according to Rakuten Intelligence, which gathers email receipts from 5.5 million U.S. customers.
Today, Abigail Klem, who took over as brand president when Ivanka Trump left, informed the company’s 18 employees that the brand would be shutting down. In an email statement sent to the media, the brand suggested that it was closing down because Ivanka Trump wanted to focus on her work at the White House. “When we first started this brand, no one could have predicted the success we would achieve,” Ivanka Trump wrote. “After 17 months in Washington, I do not know when or if I will ever return to business, but I do know that my focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing in Washington, so making this decision now is the only fair outcome to my team and partners.”
Ivanka Trump could have closed her brand as soon as she became a White House advisor, but she decided not to do so. We have three theories about why she is choosing to shut it down at this point:
- The Boycott Worked: Ivanka Trump has been consistently under attack from Grab Your Wallet, a movement founded by San Francisco-based marketer Shannon Coulter. Coulter encouraged people to stop buying products from retailers that sold Trump-branded products but paid special attention to retailers selling Ivanka Trump goods. While it is impossible to quantify exactly how effective the Grab Your Wallet project was in shutting down the Ivanka Trump brand, we do know that Coulter had a powerful platform. She had 80,000 followers on Twitter, many of whom reached out to stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s, demanding they pull Ivanka Trump products from their shelves.
- Poor Performance: Dozens of retailers eventually did stop selling Ivanka Trump products. Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Shoes.com, among many others, quietly stopped offering Ivanka Trump products online and in stores. When asked, these companies said that they made this decision because of the brand’s poor performance in stores. There is no way to tell whether the boycott had a direct impact on the brand’s bottom line. It is equally possible that the people were just not interested in the clothes–which some customers complained were ugly, badly designed, and poorly made. There were also reports that the shoes were made in a factory in China where workers were abused: This obviously raised ethical quandaries, but it also suggested a low-quality manufacturing process.
- No Ivanka Trump, No Brand: Part of what attracted many women to the Ivanka Trump brand was Ivanka Trump herself. She has been branding herself as the model of a modern working mom, who can work a demanding job but also enjoy raising her three children. The brand created a platform called #WomenWhoWork, which profiled a range of professional women but placed Ivanka Trump at the center of the conversation. Ivanka Trump herself was the main marketing engine for her brand, and when she stepped away, all that was left were bland clothes and shoes, without a story about the woman behind them.
It’s likely that it wasn’t one, but a combination of all of these factors that forced Ivanka Trump to close her namesake brand. But one thing’s for sure. Boycotters of the brand, and those who are critical of the Trump family, are going to consider this a major win for the resistance.