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The stores lining Fifth Avenue in New York open at 10 a.m. on weekdays, and this Monday, a few minutes before the hour, small clusters of shoppers waited patiently outside Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch. Two days earlier, that same sidewalk had been filled with people protesting Donald Trump’s election by marching from Union Square to Trump Tower, a Fifth Avenue fixture surrounded by the glittering, glossy storefronts of Louis Vuitton, Henri Bendel, and Bergdorf Goodman.
The scene was quieter by Monday morning, but not particularly mundane, unless you accept metal guard rails, restricted traffic, and police officers stationed up and down the street as Fifth Avenue’s new normal. If Trump splits time between the White House and his New York residence, as the Times reports he would like to, it almost certainly will be.
Employees at nearby stores including MAC, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Massimo Dutti, Abercrombie & Fitch, Prada, Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, Saint Laurent, Tommy Hilfiger, Chanel, Dior, Tiffany & Co., Ferragamo, and Versace all declined to comment on whether store traffic had changed in the last week. (They’re well-trained in referring reporters, with pleasant but firm smiles, to their corporate PR teams.) Those reps were similarly quiet on the subject of the weekend’s Trump Tower protests: Ferragamo, Abercrombie, and Henri Bendel declined to comment, though Bendel’s press liaison did ask if I’d like an interview about its holiday display.
One retailer, though, was in a tricky spot. Nestled into the ground floor of Trump Tower, Gucci faced an empty sidewalk. The area was blocked off with barriers, accessible only after I showed a security guard the contents of my purse.
Once inside Gucci, it struck me as ironic that this was the store that’s most held hostage by its proximity to Trump Tower.
Since Alessandro Michele took over as creative director in January 2015, Gucci has come to embody a style and attitude that’s distinctly un-Trump. Michele’s collections flip the script on fashion’s gender norms, and they’re sexy insofar as you find granny scarves and nerd glasses hot. The Renaissance art, old books, and Italian sculptures that populate Michele’s personal Instagram signal an elitism far removed from the tenor of Trump’s campaign.
Not that the Trump family can’t get down with the Gucci of today. Melania Trump rather ingeniously wore a hot pink Gucci pussy-bow blouse to the second presidential debate, just after video footage of her husband bragging about having license to “grab [women] by the pussy” emerged.
Michele’s contribution to Instagram on Election Day, for what it’s worth, was an old photo of Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Adding to Gucci’s incongruence with its building, its parent company, Kering, has worked hard to bill itself as a leader in environmental sustainability and announced in April that additions to its board of directors would put women in the majority. Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and plans to ditch 2015’s Paris climate accord. Do we really need to reiterate his record on women?
Gucci, of course, looked a lot different when it signed its Trump Tower lease in 2008, and Trump wasn’t subject to the same scrutiny then that he is today. Frida Giannini was the brand’s creative director, and she adhered to what Vogue Runway’s Sarah Mower described in a review from that year as “the sexy, show-offy core of the brand's proposition.”
That version of Gucci meshes a lot better with Trump’s longstanding style sensibilities, what Robin Givhan of the Washington Post describes as taste stuck in the ’80s, a time of “bravado and swagger,” “when people lived flashy, brash lives.”
I’m micro-analyzing Gucci — which declined to comment for this story — because I would do the same for any brand that found itself with a lease in Trump Tower in November of 2016. If it were Abercrombie & Fitch, that company’s recent efforts to project a more inclusive image might spring to mind with some sadness. If it were Victoria’s Secret, its pageantry of female sexuality might take on a glaring hue.
Trump Tower, previously just another emblem of New York wealth, makes you look at everything on Fifth Ave a little more intensely. Location is everything.