Ivanka Trump is facing criticism for posting a photo of herself wearing a $5,000 gown shortly after her father, President Trump, signed an executive order that bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
Critics are slamming the glamorous photo — which also features her tuxedo-wearing husband, Jared Kushner — as “sickening” and “tone-deaf” at a time when immigrants are being detained at airports across the US as a result of the executive order.
But one brand expert thinks the photo could be a brilliant and deliberate move designed to distance Ivanka from her father’s policies.
“The dress picture says: ‘I don’t necessarily want to be associated or aligned with the Trump administration,'” says Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, which works with companies on overcoming crises. “It shows that she is doing things that are asynchronistic — or not connected to — Trump’s actions.”
Ivanka Trump stepped away from her brand in January and has denied reports that she will take a position in her father’s administration. Kushner is a senior White House adviser.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Ivanka has reportedly distanced herself from her father’s politics.
The New York Times reported in November that Ivanka Trump had discouraged Donald Trump’s campaign from promoting a TV ad in which she urged voters to support him. The Times said Ivanka had urged the campaign not to promote the ad for fear that it would damage her business.
While Ivanka’s photo may have been a similar effort to separate herself from her father, it also triggered a widespread backlash on social media.
Many people criticised it as insensitive, and some tweeted photos of Ivanka in her metallic dress next to young refugees wrapped in foil blankets.
“Your fancy clothes are sickening, while people are being treated like criminals in airports across the country,” one person commented on Facebook.
Another wrote: “I feel like I’m watching the ‘Hunger Games’ with you all dressed up off to a District 1 ball, while your father has written the death sentence for families escaping torture, rape, murder and poverty by sending them back to their war-torn countries despite having been vetted and legally processed to enter the country as legal immigrants.”
Some critics are even calling for a boycott of Ivanka’s clothing and accessories line, which is a threat she’s faced before. Her namesake brand is sold in dozens of retailers including Amazon, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Marshalls, and Neiman Marcus.
But Schiffer says Ivanka’s brand probably won’t take a hit from the photo. In fact, it could get a boost.
“I think she is benefitting from the immense glamour that bestows presidents and their families,” he said. “Fashion that is worn by anyone that is tied to the White House is always going to be hot fashion — no matter the politics.”
Over time, however, her brand value could erode due to her close association with President Trump.
“One tone-deaf social media post by itself is not going to damage her brand,” said Greg Portell, a partner at A.T. Kearney, a global strategy and management consulting firm.
But as President Trump’s policies begin to take effect, companies like Macy’s and Nordstrom could face mounting pressure to drop Ivanka’s brand.
“It will absolutely put pressure on her distribution partners to make those tough decisions,” Portell said.
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