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Rachel, a college senior, wasn’t thinking about brand cachet when she bought a pair of Ivanka Trump shoes in 2014. In fact, she was barely aware that Ivanka Trump had a footwear line before she made the purchase. To Rachel, they were just comfortable, well-priced, professional shoes, and she wound up wearing them almost every day during her internship at the White House that summer.
“Which is pretty ironic now,” she says.
Rachel (not her real name; she requested anonymity because she’s applying for jobs) says that she won't throw out the flats for environmental reasons but doesn’t plan to buy the brand again. Not since Donald Trump entered and proceeded to win the presidential race.
For shoppers like Rachel who disagree with many of President Trump’s political views, his daughter’s high visibility in his campaign cast an ugly shadow over her apparel, shoe, and accessories business. It still does, despite the fact that Ivanka Trump stepped down from her day-to-day role at the brand, as well as her position at the Trump Organization, in advance of the inauguration.
For others, Ivanka Trump clothing remains just that: clothing. Myriam Mourani, a tax accountant in California who describes herself as “pretty neutral” and appreciates how the brand’s dresses travel in carry-on luggage, says that her feelings toward the brand didn’t change with Donald Trump’s run for office.
“I'm too busy taking care of my clients in my tax practice, and I look for products that make it easier to do so,” Mourani writes in an email. “To me, promoting working women and women entrepreneurship is a good thing, regardless of political affiliation.”
While social media has filled with commenters passionately exclaiming their intention to boycott the Ivanka Trump brand, or to boycott the boycott, the label’s newly charged status has changed some customers’ behavior in the real world. On a recent trip to T.J. Maxx, Melissa, a 28-year-old New Yorker, realized she had picked up an Ivanka Trump shirt and immediately put it back on the rack.
“Her decision to remain quiet on the offensive statements made by her father about women has really made me question whether she really cares about women's issues at all,” says Melissa, who asked that her real name not be used out of concern for her job. “Ivanka is not publicly vocalizing that she cares about women's bodies, so I'm not going to put her clothing on my body.”
Sarah (not her real name), a college student, recalls texting a group of her friends over a “moral dilemma” while out shopping: She had tried on a pair of Ivanka Trump shoes and thought they were cute, but didn’t know that she could buy them for political reasons. Ultimately, she walked away without them.
“Not only is Trump taking away everything from women, but now he’s taking shoes,” Sarah says.
A target of the #GrabYourWallet campaign to boycott companies with ties to the Trump family, the Ivanka Trump brand appeared to falter with stockists in early February. Nordstrom confirmed that it would not be selling the brand beyond what is currently in stores, and told Racked that the move was based on sales performance rather than political motivations. (Without providing exact numbers, an Ivanka Trump brand spokesperson says that 2016 revenue was up 21 percent over the year prior.) Ivanka Trump products seem to have been removed from Neiman Marcus and Belk’s websites, too.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that T.J. Maxx and Marshalls employees had been instructed to throw away Ivanka Trump signage and move merchandise from featured displays to mixed-brand racks.
Multiple shoppers interviewed said they know that Ivanka Trump is no longer with the company, but the fact that her name is on the merchandise is enough to dissuade them from buying.
“It’s pretty hard to dissociate the person with the brand, and that’s intentional,” says Bronwyn Early, a student who considered buying Ivanka Trump clothing in the past but says she wouldn’t now.
It’s a name that is increasingly tied to President Trump’s politics. Though Ivanka Trump doesn’t have an official role in the administration, she attended a meeting with his business advisory council last week. Her husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior advisor to the President.
But a number of shoppers who expressed positive feelings toward the Ivanka Trump brand said that neither the First Daughter nor her brand should be penalized for her father’s politics.
“It’s unfair to start going after the children of someone just because you disagree with someone’s viewpoint,” says Mikaela, an Ivanka Trump shopper from Maine who declined to give her last name. “Keep the kids out of it.”
She feels that Ivanka Trump has the right to be involved with her father’s administration if she wants, though.
Mikaela has been shopping the Ivanka Trump brand for over four years, and became loyal to its dresses because they were modest enough for the office and came in sizes that fit her petite frame. She voted for Trump in the election, though he wasn’t her first or second choice; Mikaela self-describes as a “Rick Perry girl.”
“I feel like Ivanka is her own person and that she has formed her own brand by herself. I don’t really think, if you look at him and her, that she is a reflection of her father in any way,” says Julia Horniacek, who voted for Trump in November.
Horniacek doesn’t own any Ivanka Trump products because they’re out of her price range, but says she has always “adored” the shoes and admires the First Daughter’s taste and elegance.
“While, yes, her father has these radical views and a lot of people don’t agree with what he’s saying, she’s often the one to reel him back in and she tries to be the voice of reason, so I think it’s sad in a sense that people are taking out their frustrations with Trump on her,” Horniacek says.
On Nordstrom’s decision to drop the line, Mikaela says she thinks retailers have the right to do what they want but feels that the only people it hurts are Ivanka Trump shoppers. Diana Garcia, an Ivanka Trump shopper from Florida, says Nordstrom’s plans to stop buying it left a “bad taste” in her mouth and calls it a “stupid business move.”
“I’ll just go to Bloomingdale’s,” Garcia says.
Instagram users, meanwhile, have taken to the comment sections of the Ivanka Trump brand’s recent photos requesting that it start selling directly from its own website. (Currently, it links out to partner retailers like Zappos and Lord & Taylor.) When asked whether the Ivanka Trump brand has plans to launch e-commerce on its site, a rep for the company had no official comment.
Early feels that Nordstrom made the right call in winding down its relationship with the brand. “[Ivanka Trump] is so involved now in the administration that the conflicts of interest are just ridiculous,” she says.
Sarah notes that while boycotting the label is one way to send a message to Ivanka Trump, it’s ultimately a passive action, and a privileged one at that. Concerned shoppers shouldn’t think that they’re fulfilling their civic duty by not buying the brand, she says; rather, they should make sure to take action, whether by protesting, volunteering, or donating.
A Wednesday tweet from President Trump, and a subsequent explanation from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, underscored the murky relationship between a person, a person’s brand, and a person’s politics that has become central to the debate over buying the Ivanka Trump brand. In reaction to Nordstrom’s decision, President Trump wrote that his daughter “has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom” and that “she is a great person.”
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person -- always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
In a news briefing later that day, a reporter asked Spicer how, if Ivanka Trump has separated herself from her brand, Nordstrom’s decision to stop carrying the line could be characterized as treating her unfairly.
“I think there’s clearly a targeting of her brand, and it’s her name still out there. While she’s not directly running the company, it’s still her name on it,” Spicer said. “And there’s clearly efforts to undermine that name based on her father’s positions on particular policies that he’s taken. This is a direct attack on his policies and her name, and so there’s clearly an attempt for him to stand up for her because she is being maligned because they have a problem with his policies.”
Spicer on Nordstrom: “a direct attack on [President Trump’s] policies and [Ivanka Trump’s] name.” Says the company is still Ivanka's name. pic.twitter.com/6pVgyStH1z— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 8, 2017
It’s the same reason some shoppers don’t feel comfortable buying the brand now: It has Ivanka Trump’s name on it.
Correction: February 9th, 2017
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Rachel will not wear her shoes again. She does not plan to shop the brand again.