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.
Over the past year, Ivanka Trump’s brand has faced one PR crisis after another, from shopping boycotts to retailers dropping the line. Now, the Associated Press reports that the company is no longer making its shoes in the Huajian Group factory, the one under scrutiny from the undercover activists who have since been detained by the Chinese government.
In a statement emailed to Racked, Abigail Klem, the brand’s president, said Marc Fisher, which is the brand’s footwear licensing partner, hasn’t worked with the factory in about three months.
“After discussions with our licensee, we have determined that Ivanka Trump brand products have not been produced at the factory in question since March,” said Klem. “Our licensee works with many footwear production factories and all factories are required to operate within strict social compliance regulations.”
While Klem’s statement suggests that the brand is no longer working with the factory presumably because of the alleged labor violations — according to the AP, activists Li Zhao, Hua Haifen, and Su Heng were in middle of working on a report of the factory’s “low pay, excessive overtime, and possible misuse of student labor” before they were detained — the company did not so much as mention the jailed activists and wouldn’t comment on anything further.
The timing of the label announcing it was cutting ties with the Huajian Group factory is not arbitrary. It’s one week after China Labor Watch, the labor-rights group the three jailed activists were working for, wrote a four-page letter directly to Ivanka. Even though she stepped down from her day-to-day involvement with the label in January (confused about her role? Same!), the group pleaded that as a senior advisor to the President of the United States, her father, she should help secure the release of the activists.
“In the past 17 years, China Labor Watch has conducted hundreds of factory investigations and yet this is the first time our investigators face criminal detention,” Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch, wrote in the letter to Ivanka. “We believe the reason to that is pertaining to the supplier factories of your brands particularly.”
China Labor Watch is also hoping that Ivanka will use her influence for good. The country has already ignored Amnesty International’s call to discharge the three men and declined a request for their release from the US State Department. (According to the Washington Post, the Chinese government is saying the three men were investigating the factory that Ivanka Trump shoes are made in in order to sell “commercial secrets to unnamed foreign organizations.”) This isn’t the first time China Labor Watch has reached out to Ivanka: In April, the group notified her that its investigators had discovered workers making $363 a month while working days lasting at least 12.5 hours.
“I hope that you understand the urgency of this matter,” Qiang wrote on April 27th, according to the AP. “China Labor Watch expects you, as an assistant to the president and an advocate for women’s rights, to urge your brand’s supplier factories to improve their conditions. Your words and deeds can make a difference in these workers’ lives.”