What Is She Selling? The Mysterious Future of Ivanka Trump
For a woman whose high-profile business was based around hashtags and testimonies of female empowerment—even if the real business was selling clothes and shoes—Ivanka Trump is facing an ironic reality: she is being forced to give up the stewardship of her empire because of the men in her life.
With the news that her husband Jared Kushner will serve as senior advisor to the Trump administration, Ivanka is reportedly relinquishing her executive roles at her own fashion brand and the Trump Organization to comply with ethics laws.
Vanity Fair reported that Ivanka “will sell all of her common stock and restructure her participation in Trump Organization transactions so that she no longer benefits from the profits,” according to Kushner’s attorney, and will “recuse from participating in her interest in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, along with her interest in her own brand.”
Ivanka’s future looks vague for now: she is reportedly not taking a job in the White House, but—per Kushner’s attorney—will “get a fixed series of payments from the revenue of a spate of projects.”
The news leaves us with more questions than answers. What will the hashtag-heavy Ivanka Trump fashion-cum-lifestyle brand look like without its namesake at the helm, and who will take her place? Will the brand survive without Ivanka’s pretty face and famous name selling its #WomenWhoWork ethos? Or will both her fashion and jewelry lines retain Ivanka’s face and name, exposing Kushner to potential conflicts of interest in his role as senior adviser in the Trump administration?
“The issue is what they own, not what they’re managing, so all of [Ivanka’s] assets in her businesses create conflict for Kushner under the law,” Richard Painter, who served as White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, told The Daily Beast.
While stepping down from management positions seems like a step in the right direction, at issue is Ivanka’s ownership of her fashion and jewelry lines.
“If she’s going to keep her name on the jewelry and fashion [businesses] and have someone else manage them, she’ll clearly have ownership interest in those businesses,” Painter said. “They need to identify what she’s going to hold onto and maintain ownership of, or whether she’s going to sell.”
A spokesperson for Ivanka Trump did not answer questions from the Daily Beast about when Ivanka would step down from her business, or who would take over her role. “There is no official statement at this time,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.
Since separating her personal social media account from that of her fashion brand in November, Ivanka has been noticeably absent from the brand’s Twitter and Instagram accounts—with the exception of an Instagram post in December showing Ivanka holding the manuscript for her forthcoming book, Women Who Work, apparently over drinks with her brand’s Editorial Director.
The new #TeamIvanka Instagram page is a smorgasbord of inspirational quotes (“Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is;” “More gym less cupcakes”), which the @IvankaTrumpHQ Twitter account serves up alongside fashion advice and lifestyle tips (20 office outfits to wear in the freezing cold #januarystyle #WearITtoWork #workwear; TheSkillSet: 6 ways to fit in a workout when work is crazy).
Ivanka, meanwhile, has been tweaking her public image as the daughter of an incoming President Trump. Her Instagram is heavy on family photos that might be endearing if they didn’t look like the stock images that come with picture frames. But fans of both Ivanka and her father can’t get enough of the wholesome, Great American Family that Ivanka and Kushner represent via Ivanka’s social media feeds—all long legs, toothy smiles, and handsome children.
These days, Ivanka’s balancing act seems more weighted towards being her father’s unofficial adviser than being a businesswoman— and that could be good for both Ivanka and the Ivanka Trump brand.
“If she does sell, she still gets to maintain her influence equity in this current atmosphere,” said Rajiv Menon, Director of Cultural Strategy at Civic Entertainment Group. “Her role as an influencer and the social capital she’s built for herself, the fact that she’s quite beloved in the New York City philanthropy scene and is viewed as someone who’s self-motivated in many ways—those are things that she can use in the Trump administration despite distancing herself from her eponymous brand.”
And the brand just might flourish more without Ivanka.
“Her stepping down is a huge opportunity for the brand to rebrand in a way that’s organic and honest, so they can maintain the brand ethos about working women,” Menon said.
Robert Passikoff, the founder and president of Brand Keys, a brand research and consulting company, also predicts that Ivanka's fashion line will survive with or without her.
“The Ivanka Trump brand wasn’t anything enormous before Trump became president,” said Passikoff, whose company tracks brand trajectories.
Brand Keys conducted a study back in October and found that, while Ivanka Trump’s brand took a small hit after the release of the “grab ‘em by the pussy” Access Hollywood tape, more than half of the 950 millennial women surveyed for the study either "extremely likely" or "very likely" to shop for Ivanka Trump-branded products—and some 20 percent of those surveyed had already purchased them, according to Passikoff. (Participants who qualified for the survey had spent at least $250 on a piece of clothing or pair of shoes in the last year.)
“We found that people were mostly able to separate the paternal from the political,” Passikoff said. “If you really dig deeply into the brand, you don’t have a sense that the product and the final offering really have anything more to do with someone who owns the business. And the actual business will continue to do just fine.”
President-elect Trump is scheduled to address potential conflicts of interest regarding his children's involvement in the Trump Organization during a press conference on Wednesday morning.