There is nothing not to like about Ivanka Trump's working-woman-appropriate collection of leather-trimmed sheaths and winter-floral T-shirt frocks. Last week at the Bala Cynwyd Lord & Taylor store, a cold-shoulder blouse whispered, “Elizabeth, take me home, girl.”
But instead of teeming with women looking to buy the generous assortment of Trump's ponchos, blouses, and cashmere sweaters, the sections where the brand is carried at L&T in Bala and King of Prussia Mall and at two Main Line T.J. Maxx's -- at least the two days that I was there last week -- were pretty much empty. It's not like there weren't any shoppers at T.J. Maxx. Or that no one at Lord & Taylor was perusing through nearby racks of Eli Tahari and Ralph Lauren.
Are women snubbing Trump's apparel and accessories brand because of the sins of her father? (I say sins because I don't think the Republican presidential candidate was just engaging in locker room talk when he said he could grab women "by the p-.") Do women not care that her pieces are wearable, affordable, and cute?
“Uh, no way,” Louise Rice said as she recoiled from a blouse at the Bala Cynwyd store. She had just left the shoe department where she had eyed some Trump pumps. “They were so nice, but when I saw that name, I just threw them down like they were on fire.”
Last month, Shannon Coulter, a Bay Area marketing consultant who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, started the effective #grabyourwallet hashtag. Not only is Coulter, 45, suggesting women refuse to buy Ivanka Trump clothing and accessories, she's also advising department stores that carry them to drop them. Like, now.
“We [women] buy so much in the way of clothes, shoes, and bags,” Coulter told me Monday. “Stores are making money from her fashions every time she hits the campaign trail. That means they are profiting from a campaign of hate, and we just aren’t having it.”
By Monday afternoon, Coulter said, #grabyourwallet tweets had been read by more than 119 million people. The movement apparently gained momentum over the weekend after Coulter's story was featured on Joy Reid's MSNBC Sunday-morning news show, AM Joy, and celebrities Don Cheadle, Martina Navratilova, and Lucy Lawless shared several tweets.
Although the Ivanka Trump camp was once eager to discuss the brand with me and how the collection speaks to powerful women, her publicist has gone silent in the last two weeks. Yet last week, Trump, 35, flanked by her siblings, addressed the disconnect between her brand's message and her father's rhetoric with ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos. He asked what she'd like to say to the women who support the #grabyourwallet campaign.
“I'd prefer to talk to the millions, tens of millions of American women, who are inspired by the brand and the message that I've created,” Trump said. Her clothing brand, she said, is being used by people who just don't like her dad. "I've never politicized that message,” Trump said. “People who are seeking to politicize it because they may disagree with the politics of my father, there's nothing I can do to change that."
She's not alone in her thinking.
"I would still buy her clothes," said Sara Reister, 30, a public relations specialist who lives in Philadelphia. "I have trouble finding clothes, and when I find something I like, I'm not going to worry about what's on the tag." Then she added: "Are we boycotting Martha Stewart for going to prison? Or Jessica Simpson for being dumb?"
The truth is that Ivanka Trump occupies a peculiar place in fashion, one we've never quite seen before. When have we had a clothing brand so closely related to a political candidate for the country's highest office? Designers' actions aren't always laudable -- the anti-Semitic comments of John Galliano five years ago come to mind. But the Lady Trump has never espoused anything negative about women. And the man we know as a presidential candidate is to her father -- she supports him, even if his rhetoric has offended a large part of her target customer base.
As a socialite, entrepreneur, mother, and University of Pennsylvania graduate, Ivanka Trump has a personal story that does a pretty good job of selling clothes, especially to upwardly mobile women who want to emulate that kind of life. And she reflects her fan base -- a woman with a tailored style who's climbing the corporate ladder.
It also helped that a powerful man in her life had manufacturing connections overseas. Trump had a sartorial vision she was able to actualize thanks to her dad. It's worth noting here that Trump doesn't design for the brand, but she does serve as its creative director.
In 2007, Trump launched a high-end jewelry line, and four years later came her comfortable brand of shoes. In 2012, she introduced the apparel. In the beginning, it had a very home-shopping-network feel, but with each season, the pieces have become more chic and edgier, while maintaining serious-female CEO swag. According to a July article in Forbes, the Ivanka Trump apparel brand did $100 million in revenue during the last fiscal year.
Her collection was poised to get an extra boost when she modeled it this year during her father's campaign. Trump's public relations firm worked closely with Women's Wear Daily during the Republican National Convention in July to make sure fashionistas knew the blush sheath in which she addressed the audience was from her collection. (At under $150, it was sold out by the next morning.) The dainty blue floral fit-and-flare she wore in Drexel Hill in October? Hers. And the accessories she carried the night of the last presidential debate? Ivanka Trump, too.
Perhaps many women were willing to embrace her affiliation with her dad, especially after she spoke so eloquently during the RNC about his plan to help women crush the glass ceiling and provide affordable child care.
Then there were the allegations that went public about the elder Trump's sexual misconduct, and the transcript with former NBC newsman Billy Bush went viral, and he called Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton a "nasty woman" during the final debate.
"I think that a lot of women were watching Ivanka's behavior carefully after the release of the Trump tapes," Coulter said. "Not only did she return to the campaign trail on a pretty aggressive campaign schedule, she is one of his top surrogates."
It appears the original Trump brand may be threatened, as well. People are boycotting Donald Trump's ritzy hotels and golf clubs. And late last month, residents at an apartment building that bears Trump's name signed a petition to dump the name from their building.
The question will be, however, whether Ivanka Trump can repair her relationship with female buyers who have been offended by her father -- after the election is over.
Elissa Bloom, executive director of the Philadelphia fashion incubator that specializes in building brands, says yes.
"Time is the best healer," Bloom said. "I mean, bad things happen in fashion all of the time. Look at Martha Stewart, look at Steve Madden," she said, referring to their time spent in jail. "People move on."
Then again, "maybe she will just start going by Ivanka."
This week, Ivanka Trump was seen at a restaurant having a late breakfast with Megyn Kelly, the Fox news reporter her father and his supporters have eviscerated this election season.
My guess: Ivanka is already extending the olive branch as a way to repair her name.