Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Since the election, Ivanka Trump’s namesake fashion line has experienced trouble on the consumer end in the form of shopper boycotts and retailers edging away from selling its products. But while customer-focused issues flare quickly and visibly, concerns about the brand’s supply chain have also been mounting in recent months. The latest, the New York Times reported yesterday, is this: One labor activist looking into practices at a Chinese factory that manufactures Ivanka Trump shoes has been detained by the police for alleged illegal eavesdropping, and two of his colleagues on the investigation have disappeared.
The activists are employees of China Labor Watch, a New York-based nonprofit that assesses working conditions in Chinese factories, which reported the two missing. They had been undercover at the factory working on a report citing “low pay, excessive overtime, and possible misuse of student labor,” the AP says.
Similar complaints have been aired previously. Last year, Racked reported that a Chinese factory that made Ivanka Trump product as recently as 2014 subjected workers to long hours and low wages. In 2015, a shipping firm that moves Ivanka Trump merchandise was hit by a lawsuit for discriminating against an Orthodox Jewish employee.
The consumer education nonprofit Project Just conducted a deep dive into the Ivanka Trump brand’s supply chain earlier this year and came up with almost nothing, in part because the fashion company doesn’t manufacture anything itself. It licenses its name to G-III and Marc Fisher Footwear, which produce and market its clothing and shoes, respectively. The more layers a brand adds to its supply chain, the more opaque things can get. Researchers have struggled in vain to track down the factories that make Donald Trump’s ties, too, which are also the product of licensing agreements.
Though Ivanka Trump no longer has a day-to-day role at her eponymous brand, which primarily manufactures in China, she has retained financial ties to it throughout her time in the White House. Her ability to separate business and politics has been called into question before, like her company won trademarks in China the day that she dined with the Chinese president.