by Jennie Matthew
Agence France Presse
NEW YORK, United States (AFP) — Ivanka Trump announced Tuesday that she was closing her eponymous fashion brand, following a firestorm of criticism about potential conflicts of interests and flagging sales fueled by a political backlash.
The 36-year-old, who has been frequently photographed wearing shoes from her namesake label, stepped away from the company to work in the White House as an advisor to her father, President Donald Trump, but continued to profit from the label.
While the clothing, footwear and accessories brand experienced a surge in sales in 2016, the year that Trump won the presidency, it suffered a backlash after he took office, and had been axed by a growing number of retail chains.
As first daughter, she has travelled overseas representing the United States, attended meetings with visiting heads of state and travelled domestically, fueling speculation that she may harbor future political ambitions of her own.
“After 17 months in Washington, I do not know when or if I will ever return to the business, but I do know that my focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing here in Washington,” she said in a statement.
“So making this decision now is the only fair outcome for my team and partners,” she added.
“I know that each of them will thrive in their next chapter.”
US watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington offered lukewarm approval and called on the Trump family to divest from all assets, saying they should have done so before entering the White House.
“While this is a notable step in the right direction, it’s a small one that comes much too late,” said CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder.
Reports that the brand would file for new trademarks “raises questions as to how serious this ‘shut down’ really is and whether the brand will continue to create conflicts of interest,” he added.
Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand, said she knew that the decision had been a “very difficult” for the first daughter.
The label’s 18 employees were informed Tuesday that the business was ending, US media reported.
– China trademarks –
The mother-of-three, who is unpaid for her White House work, made at least $82 million last year with husband Jared Kushner, a fellow Trump advisor.
The former model launched a jewelry line in 2007, before branching out into mid-level priced shoes, handbags and ultimately clothes.
She pitched the label as a mid-priced fashion and lifestyle company, geared towards working women, which was stocked by US department stores such as Macy’s, T.J. Maxx, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.
In 2016, the year that she hit the campaign trail hard on her father’s behalf, the company expanded into denim, activewear and baby bedding.
In January 2017 she announced that she was stepping down from the family real estate firm, The Trump Organization, and from actively managing her brand, which was placed into a trust.
But the brand was thrust into a major backlash fueled by opposition to the Trump administration and calls for a boycott on those doing business with the first family.
Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus dropped her line, citing slow sales.
Earlier this month, Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay — whose holdings include US retailers Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor — phased out the brand.
Although Ivanka named Klem president of the label, criticism about conflicts of interest refused to die.
CREW first revealed in May that the brand had been granted five business trademarks in China, just days before the US president suddenly scrapped a US technology ban imposed on Chinese telecom firm ZTE.
In 2017, the label ended talks on a distribution deal with Sanei International in Japan, which insiders attributed to ethics recommendations and an attempt to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
In February 2017, Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway plugged the brand in a television interview, urging shoppers to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff” — and then earning a sharp rebuke from ethics officials.
The president had hit out at Nordstrom when it dropped the label, saying on Twitter: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”
© Agence France-Presse