Trump Enterprises: A Gilded Brand’s Political Conundrum
Posted on 6 December 2016
What might social media augur for aspirational luxury?
Some might say that the Dictator chic decor of our President-elect’s digs should have been a dead giveaway of what to expect. Fashion and style have always been a reflection of the times, however strange, we live in. Fashion is political, period.
Bizarre times, it seems, beget even weirder behavior. I’m talking about the Trump clan’s global brand aspirations of becoming the imprimatur of elevated taste—brought to you from on high, yet—The White House. Fantastical, you say? Not so fast, global brand ambassadors associated with the President-elect’s businesses are already gilding their far-flung brand lining with the Presidential seal.
Conflict of interest, you say? Nah, the incoming hierarch will probably find a way to skirt the Emoluments law anyway, which prohibits an elected official from receiving benefits from a business interest. Ostensibly declaring he’ll be a full-time president, Trump claims he’ll pull out of all his business interests to avoid “visible” conflict of interest, however, no details have been provided.
Welcome to the new Trumpean order, perhaps part Orwellian.
Consumers outraged over the paucity of values associated with Trump businessman as leader of the free world can now avoid Trump-supporting businesses through boycotting the brand while admonishing complicit retail purveyors for compromising their values for carrying a brand associated with racist, sexist, misogynistic and xenophobic policy.
Initially, the boycott movement was started by Shannon Coulter in October with the GrabYourWallet campaign, launched in response to Trump’s taped gushing and gloating about groping women. GrabYourWallet.org published a list of companies selling Trump brands (including Ivanka Trump fashion), along with phone numbers, urging people to demand retailers disassociate with the brand and take a moral stand against corrosive values by removing Trump brands. To it’s credit, a Canadian company, shoes.com was the first brand to ditch Ivanka Trump, stating “We understand and your voices have been heard. We have removed the products from our website.” Some Zappos customers have even switched.
Pressure on Ivanka Trump’s eponymous brand has grown, resulting in her “separation” from the brand, although given her implicit support of her father’s unsavory diatribes and bigotry, it is unlikely that her distancing from the brand will deflect mounting consumer pressure on retailers to stop selling Ivanka Trump fashion and other products on moral grounds. Time will tell the extent of the social impact.
Another initiative,” Boycott Trump”:https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/boycotttrump/id1171663655?ls=1&mt=8, organized by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, provides an app which lists over 250 companies and people associated with brand Trump. It states “Make Trump and his allies pay, literally, for their hateful rhetoric and regressive policies,” it reads. “Use consumer action to take a stand for what’s right!”
Yet another organized consumer initiative, the Donald J. Trump Resistance (DJTR), also urges consumers to boycott business associated with the brand. DJTR states: “When your CEO or Chairman or primary investor makes a public endorsement, or gives millions of dollars to fund Donald Trump, they deserve to be held accountable for that public position. We must make our money stand for the values and the people that we believe in. Otherwise, we are funding the very oppression, bigotry, and discrimination that we claim to hate.”
As the NetBase retailer analysis below shows, the discussion surrounding Nordstrom has escalated, with growing evidence that consumers aren’t buying Nordstrom’s so-called “politically agnostic” argument for not dumping Ivanka Trump fashion.
Such are the posts:
shannoncoulter Nordstrom Returned this gift I bought and found at another store #GrabYourWallet.
And, for Macy’s: My husband is calling to cancel our Macy’s CC. No need for it. #GrabYourWallet.
Macys Just closed my account. I will not shop at your store while you carry any/all Trump products. #GrabYourWallet shannoncoulter
Amazon customers have also demanded a moral stance: @amazon Dump Trump and family products and I will gladly come back to you. Until then #BoycottAmazon #GrabYourWallet
Caught in the crossfire, New Balance, a legacy made-in-America brand, unwittingly created some heat for itself when it posted a comment supporting U.S. friendly trade policy for goods manufactured in the U.S. that was misinterpreted as pro-Trump. The president-elect has advocated levying 35% taxes on U.S. companies who produce abroad and threatened to impose a 45% tax penalty on goods imported from China. However, as many economists, even GOP leaders, have cautioned, the biggest peril would be to U.S. jobs, given the complex global supply chain many U.S. companies rely on to manufacture in the U.S. to keep their doors open.
On the face of it, such protectionist policy would be self-defeating to the president-elect’s global enterprise. Ironically, thousands of Ivanka Trump shoes are made in China, as are Donald Trump ties.
Not unlike the majority of the U.S. fashion industry, Trump and Ivanka Trump apparel brands manufacture offshore. Not one to self-sabotage, Trump Enterprises may be up to some skulduggery on this one. (More on the Trump con on the return of U.S. manufacturing jobs in the Washington Post. Another important read for the record, from MIT Technology Review.)
Will the president-elect sabotage his own business interests to keep specious campaign promises on trade? Highly unlikely. And, if he ignites a trade war, the U.S. fashion industry—and U.S. jobs—will suffer, but apparel manufacturing will remain offshore, where much of it migrated decades ago.
As for the aspirational luxury market, the politics of fashion have never been more skittish in social media.