Leslie Koth was scrolling through her Facebook feed in early February when she saw the news that Nordstrom, citing low sales, had decided to stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. She immediately went online and snapped up a Trump-branded plum-and-pink sunburst dress selling for $138.
“I want her to continue to be a good role model for women in business and forge on,” said Koth, 46, a stay-at-home mother of four in Carterville, Illinois, who posted a photo of herself wearing the dress for a Kentucky Derby-themed fundraiser in May, with the caption, “My Ivanka Trump Derby dress!” and an American flag emoji.
“I just think it is wrong for her to be attacked,” Koth said.
Buffeted by her father’s tumultuous tenure in the White House and increasingly polarized views about her family, the first daughter’s clothing company appears to have found a new and growing base of customers: women who view purchasing her products as a way to make a political statement.
They post selfies while wearing her dresses, citing their pride in supporting Trump and her family, and urge other women to join the cause.
Trump customers, for the most part, are undeterred by any potential disconnect between her business model – in which clothing, footwear and handbags are all produced in foreign factories – and the president’s call for U.S. companies to hire American workers. The arrangement is simply a reality of the modern garment industry, they say.
“When you think about it, what clothing isn’t made overseas?” said Bethany Rhoads, a 31-year-old traveling nurse, whose favorite Trump piece is a black-and-white sleeveless dress made in Indonesia.
The loyalty of these customers reflects an unusual dynamic at play for President Trump and his daughter – business executives who are new to government and have insisted on retaining their financial holdings while in the White House. While both have pledged to step away from daily management of their companies, their businesses have nevertheless been evolving along with their political activities.
The president’s hotel and real estate company, long focused on luxury properties in big cities, is launching a new low-price hotel brand called American Idea inspired by visits the Trump family made to rural communities during the campaign. And Ivanka Trump brought her brand’s “#WomenWhoWork” motto into the White House as part of her role as an adviser to her father, taking on family leave and child-care issues as a major part of her portfolio.
The customer demographic attracted to Ivanka Trump’s clothing line has increasingly moved from “folks on Fifth Avenue to Main Street,” said Allen Adamson, a corporate brand marketing consultant.
“She was ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,’ ” Adamson said, adding: “But there’s been a shift in the political stance and polarization of the entire country. . . . The people in her base are more passionate than ever.”
Ivanka Trump’s company told The Washington Post that it has experienced a sales surge during the time that Donald Trump emerged as the Republican nominee and won the presidency – with revenue up 21 percent in 2016 and rising again this year, executives said.
The figures could not be independently verified, as the company is privately held, and executives declined to release additional data.
“We are proud that our business is growing rapidly and that our brand resonates strongly with women who are inspired by our messaging and excited about the polished and chic solution-oriented products that we offer,” Abigail Klem, the company’s president, said in a statement.
Among the new customers is Carly McKenzie, a hair salon owner in Lumberton, Mississippi, who bought her first Ivanka Trump item earlier this year when she encountered a white patterned chiffon dress on sale at a local store.
“I loved the dress,” said the 31-year-old single mom, who has worn it to church and a family reunion. But her purchase was also driven by another motivation: to support President Trump and his eldest daughter.
“I love the way she carries herself, the way she represents her father. I think she portrays a different side of Trump,” said McKenzie, who posted a photo of herself in the dress on a pro-Trump Facebook page with the hashtag “#adorabledeplorable” – a riff on Hillary Clinton’s jab calling Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables,” which some refashioned into a point of pride.
For many of the women who buy Ivanka Trump clothes, the purchases are a way to send a message about what they like about the administration.
“I think she is the best part of it,” Rhoads said, adding that the first daughter brings “a very simple approach” to “what feels like a media circus and a political circus.”
Rhoads said she began to admire Ivanka Trump after seeing her on her father’s reality show on “The Apprentice.”
“While she is a billionaire heiress, she still posts pictures of herself playing with her kids on the floor,” Rhoads said. “She seems very, very down-to-earth – the kind of mom that working women aspire to be.”
Tracie Stradling, a 47-year-old medical assistant who lives in Gilbert, Arizona, said she first started buying Trump-brand clothes about five years ago because she likes the cut of her dresses.
“You don’t have to look like Ivanka for it to look good,” she said.
When Nordstrom announced that it was no longer going to carry Trump’s line, Stradling said she rushed out and bought four dresses. She now has more than two dozen Ivanka items.
Stradling noted that many U.S. brands make their clothes overseas.
“Yes, I would like to see jobs stay local,” she said. “But nobody hated on her clothes until Trump became president.”