It’s Over Now, Ivanka

Time for her to leave Washington and retire her power suits and modest dresses, and that fake smile?

By Emma Ng

The stitches have come apart for the second term of the Trump presidency and daughter-to-the-rescue Ivana Marie “Ivanka” Trump is unable to re-stitch it because, despite all the attempts at repairing her father’s irreparable wrong doings, I doubt she has ever held a needle her entire life. The sharpest thing she plays with, it appears, are her stilettos. Mending does not seem to be part of her skill set, or she could have tried to repair the social snags caused by the president’s poor (or non-existent) policies. The many white suits she has worn during her father’s tenure at the White House only showed more stains than a butcher’s apron when she proved to be complicit in her dad’s divisive and dangerous decisions. The senior advisor, it seems to me, has not been advising. Much.

Ms Trump, also the standby FLOTUS, was never qualified to take up the post in the White House, even if she was, reportedly, not remunerated. Of course, being unqualified has never been an issue. In 2011, she launched her namesake fashion label even when she had never been in the business of designing or selling clothes. (Her modelling—if you can call it that—‘experience’ was expendable.) I doubt many remember what it was she peddled; I certainly don’t. She told InStyle that year, “I wanted to build a strong and sustainable collection that is not overly trend-conscious”, adding, “I wanted the price points to be accessible, but ultimately we’re in the business of luxury, and these looks are consistent with that larger messaging.” If that was not attributed to Ms Trump, I would have thought it came from a JC Penney’s buyer.

In July 2018, due to pressures from ethical concerns of the first daughter setting up shop next to her father, Ivanka Trump the fashion label didn’t survive. That could have foretold her political ambition in 2020, or her chances of unrestricted access to the White House, but all the pussy bows she had fastened to her neck might have limited oxygen going to her brain. And all the floral prints she has been wearing were no tea leaves to be read. The pretty penny she has spent on her wardrobe to get her not only to the corridors of the White House and the power nucleus of Washington, but also the world stage, where she had been snubbed, has not been good investment—she won’t be able to continue as the administration’s sweet-faced supremo to defend and blandish the president. A deflated ball, as we know, loses its bounce.

For all the talk and rows of magazine columns that noted fashion has changed, Ms Trump remains trapped in her buttoned-up suits and Sunday dresses, and convinced of her corporate chic and her own fabulousness as counterpoint to her father’s misogynistic propensities

What was Ivanka Trump’s own “larger messaging”? Frankly, I couldn’t read any. Empowering women? Maybe empowering herself. Being her father’s “hot” girl and one he would date (recall: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her”), she was more fembot mascot for brand Trump than the saviour of women in the workforce that her dad couldn’t be. I assume she thinks her fashion reflects the sartorial choices of working women, only they don’t. She is not a working woman like you and I. For all the talk and the rows of columns that noted fashion has changed, especially in the wake of WFH, Ms Trump remains trapped in her stodgy buttoned-up suits and prosaic Sunday dresses, and convinced of her corporate chic and her own fabulousness as counterpoint to her father’s misogynistic propensities.

Throughout her career as a political operative, Ivanka Trump looks the part of tasteful right-wing Trump surrogates (yes, among them, the belligerent Kellyanne Conway) with their less than tasteful assertions that the president was never wrong or never lied. The clothes they wear perpetually look like outfits picked to meet the boyfriend’s mother… for the first time, or to attend a high school classmate’s wedding at the golf course clubhouse. Blandness may serve your base, but they would not move the needle for fashion. Do Ivanka Trump, Hope Hicks, Kayleigh McEnany, Laura Ingraham, and Paula White, I wonder, go shopping together, all heavenly scented, hair flat-ironed so as to reflect the results of a study, as reported by The Atlantic, that suggested, “Republican congresswomen look twice as ‘feminine’ as Democrat”?

Ivanka Trump is, for many of her followers, the epitome of picture-perfect femininity. Or, red-state refinement. I suspect it’s all styled to go along with the popular imagination of what is worn to work in the White House and to meet world leaders. And it doesn’t come cheap. One Rodarte dress she donned to a bash to welcome French president Emmanuel Macron in 2018, the year her fashion label folded, was reported to have cost an eye-watering USD12,888. It was a frilly, micro-dotted, floor-length dress with six tiers for the skirt—sweet but spiritless, fashionable but familiar, beauteous as Barbie. Ms Trump once said, “I’m not a clone, and I’m not a minion”. From a fashion perspective, those are, to quote one former White House press secretary, “alternative facts.”

Illustration: Just So

Is Ivanka Trump Real?

Or is she the product of some artificial intelligence we know not of?

 

Ivanka Trump and a can of beans

By Mao Shan Wang

Ivanka Trump in the White House is a magnet of jokes, not just her father. Sometimes, I feel sorry for her, sorry that she is not aware of how foolish she has appeared to be in the eyes of the public. Ignorance, as I always say, is not bliss; it is ignorance. And this clearly comes with the disadvantage of the ‘lack of’. Oh, I am not talking about money or education, or connections, or husbands. I am referring to good judgment and, just as important for a woman of her position, this elusive quality called taste.

The latest opportunity for people to have a go at her—and her lack of—came in the form of an IG post. The picture (above) shows her posing with a can of black beans by the company Goya (not, as far as I am aware, available here), and gesturing approvingly. We now know that this post has raised question about ethics violations. Ms Trump’s photographic approbation came after the CEO of Goya Foods, a Hispanic-owned company that offers “authentic Latino food”, expressed support for her father, which itself has generated the call for the boycott of Goya products. Ms Trump inexplicably followed the picture with the comment, in both English and Spanish, “If it’s Goya, it has to be good.”

Well, that was really not surprising to me. Ms Trump’s IG page fills anyone’s screen with images typical of influencers’ narcissistic bombast. This is classic KOL response. You don’t actually have to like the product (does Ms Trump even cook or have the time to?). For as long as you’re seen with it, people will be influenced. Thing is, who’s actually doing the influencing? Product or person? As The Guardian said of Instagram last year, “The picture-sharing site and its ilk are full of celebs peddling products and not being open about what they get in return”. Is it a wonder that the ethics people are after her?

I feel I was transported back to the ’50s, way before I was born. This is the advertising pose of the decade of wholesome family dinners

And what’s with that pose? I feel I was transported back to the ’50s, way before I was born. This is the advertising poses of the decade of wholesome family dinners: These are black beans. They are delicious. Yes, she was a model before, so she can be this good! The more I look at the picture, the more obvious it is to me that Ms Trump and Goya Foods are in cahoots to improve her image and popularity by eventually turning the picture into a standee that can be placed at the entrance of supermarkets. Something like the Singapore Girl cut-out in front of the Silver Kris lounge welcoming you.

And the more I see (well, just a second longer), the more I detect an unrealness about her. Was a Stepford wife (the 1975 film version) staring back at me? I, like the new-in-towner Joanna Eberhart, am beginning to suspect that Ivanka Trump is a robot created by her husband Jared Kushner in Kalorama, Washing DC, instead of Stepford, Connecticut. Even her official photo as advisor to the president is Stepford wife-impeccable. How else could I explain her perfectly-parted, always-in-place hair or her beaming eyes, or unvarying smile? Was she programmed to project herself so superbly? Does Mr Kushner have access to some secret control programming?

There is, of course, the clothes. Ivanka Trump is possibly the only woman who still dons office wear, a category in decline and almost wiped out now that many of us WFH. She has a weakness for decorous dresses or modest blouses, such as this white version for the Goya plug (which is a re-wear from the video in which she promoted her equally ridiculed Find Something New initiative). She likes matchy-matchy styles too, pairing, as in this picture, the top with same-colour skirt. And we thought the GE is over! I am quite certain, Ms Ivanka buys complete looks when she visits her fave stores, that would include bed linens and tableware. Jared Kushner must be a very contented spouse. The Stepford program works!

Photo: ivankatrump/instagram

Redundant!

Ivanka Trump may be pretty in pink, but she’s not powerful in pink, nor percipient 

 

Front and centre: Ivanka Trump at the G20 Summit in Osaka. Photo: AP

By Mao Shan Wang

Oh, to be snubbed! Most of us would have buried our heads in shame. Not Ivanka Trump. She carried hers high, along with her hands, moving them for emphasis and attention. Also referred to, perhaps a little derisively, as the “First Daughter”, she is, I concede, not one of us. She’s made of sterner stuff—her father’s go-to whatever.

In a video posted by the French government and subsequently shared by many news agencies, Ms Trump was captured eager to participate in a conversation that she possibly did not initiate. The members of this group chat were head of states Theresa May, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, and the International Monetary Fund’s Christine Legarde, and it is the IMF chief’s reaction that is truly—allow me to use Mastercard’s marketing tagline—priceless!

The now-diplomat-wannabe appeared to want to engage powerful players of world politics (or, maybe, interrupt), but was unable to even catch their attention, not even with her hand gestures, made more emphatic by the equally gesticulating trumpet sleeves that framed her wrists; she was frowned at. To me (and most of those who live online), Ms Trump appeared out of place, visually incongruous, not in the same league. Sesame Street fans will recognise this episode in the song/game “one of these things is not like the others; one of these things just doesn’t belong” (don’t mean to call anyone in the video a ‘thing’, but you now what I mean). And Taylor Swift fans, too!

Let me rub it in: Professionally, she’s not up there; intellectually, she’s not of equal heft; and sartorially, she’s not cut from the same cloth; she who has no more of her own label to turn to. Talking about cloth, is dressing like you’re going to lunch with your BFFs in a newly starred Michelin-rated restaurant a good look at the G20 Summit?

Professionally, she’s not up there; intellectually, she’s not of equal heft; and sartorially, she’s not cut from the same cloth

 

Admittedly, she did stand out, although not in a way that might be appreciated at such a high-level international forum, since this wasn’t a meet-and-greet at a Marie Kondo convention. Neither did Ms Trump rock it (to borrow a term often associated with Rihanna) in the pink Valentino, with what the brand called a “snowdrop” print, however sweet it was. Perhaps, she merely wanted to show the world how she had contributed to the US retail performance of Q3. Frankly, looking at her, I don’t know who or what she was representing—the White House, the United States of America, or the Miss Universe Organisation (even if her father doesn’t own it anymore). The floaty dress looked lame on her, a femininity enhancer and little else, something Jamie Chua might wear to host a program for her sadly inane YouTube channel. And I have not even started on the insipid white belt.

The thing is, we may not be able to see through that dress, but underneath it is a person with skin that can only be described as thicker—a lot thicker—than the fabric that sheathed it. We know her father has never stopped their family outings, not even after taking up residency in the White House, but that does not mean she should avail herself to what has been largely foreign-affairs occasions, even if it is often said that her husband Jared Kushner runs a “shadow State Department” (settling the Israeli-Palestinian problem/conflict a pet project)! Even the G20 Summit wasn’t enough. After Osaka, she went along with her father to North Korea, and no one knows what the president’s daughter is doing at the DMZ. If the Trumps wanted to see how “surreal” the hermit kingdom is, they should have joined a tour.

Okay, I forget. She did have an agenda at the G20 Summit: to sing the same song of “women’s empowerment” as she did—if you don’t remember—at the last G20 in Hamburg where she marketed her also-in-pink self. The sad thing about Ivanka Trump is this: it’s not the pink (Angela Merkel wore pink too in Osaka). She not only often looks like she’s done for the day and is off to the spa to spend quality time with a therapist and scented candles, she sounds just as inconsequential—in fact, trite and unoriginal.

At the summit, she called women “one of the most undervalued resources in the world”, and felt they should not only be a social justice issue, but one of “economic and defence policy” too. Didn’t Theresa May, responding to Emmanuel Macron comment on social justice, earlier say something to that effect in that conversation Ivanka Trump was not welcomed?

Is Ivanka Trump Hurting Ivanka Trump?

Or is it the bland and uninspiring designs that were doomed from the very start?

 

ivanka-trumpIvanka Trump: loyal daughter, political aspirant, fashion entrepreneur. Photo: ivankatrump.com

By Mao Shan Wang

American fashion isn’t in good shape; it looks as if the hems are fraying. Closures left, right and centre, including storied names such as Donna Karan, and rescue missions by non-Americans such as Raf Simons at Calvin Klein point to troubled times. Even New York’s fashion darling Marc Jacobs is nearing undone at the seams, it seems. LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault appeared to have accepted a rather declinisme outcome when he said, “I’m more concerned about Marc Jacobs than the U.S. President”, as Tweeted by Quartz reporter Marc Bain two weeks ago.

I, like many fellow contributors here at SOTD, do consider American fashion an oxymoron. Still, I watch the developments over there with keen interest, such as those at Ivanka Trump’s eponymous fashion label. A headline in the vein of “Nordstrom Is Dropping Ivanka Trump’s Brand” does arouse my interest. Lest it’s mistaken, I am no fan of the Donald’s determined daughter, but I am curious about her attempts at building a fashion empire, a la Tory Burch, which, like the later, are not based on changing the game, or hemlines. But at least Ms Burch has what can be considered a track record, and a look—even when boho (preppy or not) is now by and large a no-no.

invanka-trump-homepageIvanka Trump’s Goop-ish website, without the advertising 

Ms Trump, on the other hand, has mostly a hackneyed idea of what a working woman needs and that distaste-inspiring family name, which was used to launch the fashion line (initially just fine jewellery “for women buying for themselves”) that she founded in 2007. According to Racked, which four days ago also first reported that Nordstrom had dropped her line, her flagship store in Mercer Street of New York’s Soho “has quietly shuttered” in October last year. Could the closure of her main retail outlet be due to poor performance or part of her attempt at distancing herself from the business as she makes inroads into the political muddle of present-day Washington?

That woman has ambition, for sure (a Trump trait?), but style, that I am not quite certain. She looks attractive (“a piece of ass”, as her father concurred with shock jock Howard Stern in 2006), but that does not mean she is stylish. Much of what you want to know about her fashion aesthetic can be gleaned from her website ivankatrump.com, which seems to be modelled on those sites that are conceived to “help” women better their lives, such as Goop. What is it about marriage or motherhood that makes some women want to reach out to others (the “self-purchasing female”?) and teach them how to conduct their lives, or choose a dress? What is it about mothers at work that make them inclined to want to connect with other mothers at work to goad them into being better working mothers? What is it about having a baby that makes some women more entrepreneurial—a Tjin Lee-style expression of do good for each other and make some money in the mean time?

ivanka-trump-twitter-creenshotScreen grab of Ivanka Trump’s Twitter post that amounted to a sales pitch

Ivanka Trump’s doom in fashion was made when she rode on her family name to birth her label ten years ago, rather than bank on real talent in fashion design or retail. In fact, Mrs Jared Kushner has never made an attempt at playing down her maiden name in what she does; even her 2009 self-help book was called The Trump Card! It is tempting to surmise that Ms Trump has no friends because if she does, at least one of them would have alerted her to the salient fact that name (and fame) did not let Lindsay Lohan hand any glory to Ungaro (you remember that embarrassing stint?).

The problem is also compounded by Ms Trump’s constant appearance at her father’s side, particularly in the election year. Does she even have time to design (or oversee the design)? Her fate was sealed near the end of the campaign season last year when she Tweeted the day after the Republican National Convention—where she wore one of her retail dresses—the shameless encouragement “Shop Ivanka’s look from the #RNC speech.” The lack of subtlety, as many saw it, accelerated the tumble.

Clearly, not everyone likes daddy’s girl. Or she who uses daddy’s stage to sell her own wares!

While so many now see a First Daughter (really a political novice), I see a Barbie-esque woman who shares the same adjective as her father’s favourite charge: “fake news”. If you look at what she peddles, you see an individual disconnected with the ever-changing world of fashion, but wedged in a tired idea of what constitutes office wear. Does such a category even exist anymore? Just because you go to the work place regularly does not mean you have to look office-bound. As such, she fashions Ivanka Trump the label after herself. In her own office in the Trump Tower, she is the one who lays down the rules of dress. The thing is, how do you define Ms Trump’s look? You can’t. That goes for her label.

Ivanka Trump merchandise.jpgIvanka Trump fashion is still hawked on some online stores such as Zappos and Macy’s. Photos: from respective online stores

In fact, dismal are the designs, as exceptional as her father’s shirts and ties at Macy’s—with the same appeal as what are plonked on his body… daily! Should the Ivanka Trump collection be yanked off the production line, it won’t be missed. When your looks appear to be based on the playbook of Forever 21 and the like, priced to appeal to those willing to pay more, people will forget it when tomorrow comes and the ho-hum does not hold up. I am especially shocked by the footwear: could they have been discards from Aldo?

Ivanka Trump is supposed to have put space between herself and her ventures. Amid questions swirling around like a chiffon skirt about what it means ethically for the Trump family to still run their businesses, she was reported to have said that she would not be involved in her own or her father’s. Yet, oddly, she has kept her photo—banner-style—very much visible in her same-name website. She looks, to me, cold in the softly-hued picture, but comely, a counterpoint to her dad’s crassness. If you look harder, as I did, you may sense an unyielding, not reaching out, quietly go-getting stance with dare-you eyes: a Trump personified, every bit her father’s proud, all-visible protégé.

Despite the calculated prepossessing physical qualities, Ms Trump could not halt the fading of her label. Some observers and members of the media attribute it to the gathering momentum of the #grabyourwallet movement, a grassroots effort that “tracks and boycotts retailers that sell Trump family products as well as corporate leaders who enabled the political rise of the Trump family through fundraising and/or endorsements.” But that, I think, is only a catalyst. Ultimately, a foundation of good designs could survive the storm. In the end, as her father’s sidekick with the aim of acquiring the highest security clearance for the White House, Ivanka Trump has only herself to blame.