Buying Ivanka

Staking out the first daughter’s shoe section in Bloomingdale’s

I was flipping through a Bloomingdale’s catalog the other day, when a pair of shoes caught my eye. They were gold, sparkly and had a comfortable-looking, chunky heel. Intrigued, I glanced at the label: Ivanka Trump.

I turned the page.

Ever since the election, Ivanka Trump’s inoffensive, trendy fashion line has become political, with a growing opposition. There’s the “Grab Your Wallet” campaign, which encourages shoppers to boycott any store that stocks Ivanka Trump products; the announcement made by Nordstrom that it would no longer sell her wares (and President Trump’s subsequent Twitter rant against the department store); and a San Francisco boutique that is suing the brand for exploiting “the power and prestige of the White House for personal gain.” Ivanka herself stepped down from running her brand, though she still owns it.

Despite all of this controversy, the e-commerce aggregator Lyst reported that the brand experienced a 346 percent increase in sales from January to February this year. So obviously, someone is listening to Kellyanne Conway’s advice to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”

But how, I wondered, does all of this play out in the actual store? Are people angered by Ivanka’s brand? Do they embrace it? Or do they simply buy the products because they like them?

“Ugh. We should have gone to Nordstrom.”
Bloomingdale’s shopper

Curious, I traveled to Bloomingdale’s in Soho, which stocks Ivanka Trump’s shoe line, to find out. I staked out a spot next to the Ivanka section, tried on shoes (not hers) and observed how people interacted with her brand.

In feng shui, there is a concept called “dead zones” or spaces in a room where there’s not much energy or activity. Situated behind a column, close to the storage area in the back, the Ivanka Trump shoe section is definitely in the dead zone of the department. The store does not clearly signal her shoes the way they do for almost every other brand, making it impossible to tell from afar that the shoes are Ivanka’s.

Bloomingdale’s did not return a request for comment about their merchandising strategy.

Still, shoppers did find her shoes. One woman eyed a pair of strappy stilettoes from across the room and hustled over to grab them. She picked one shoe up, studied it for a few seconds, and then saw the label. Dropping the shoe as if it were on fire, she turned around abruptly and caught me staring at her.

“I just can’t buy her shoes,” she explained. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to overshare.”

A younger girl, wandering by herself, kept pawing at an Ivanka sandal. When her friend joined her a few minutes later, she tried to make the case for why she should buy them.

“They’re so cute!” she begged.

“No,” said her friend, “You can find the same shoe from a different brand.” They walked away.

Another pair of friends, walking the periphery of the department, squawked when they came upon the label. “Ugh,” said one. “We should have gone to Nordstrom.”

In the hour I was there, the only people I saw actually try on a pair of Ivanka shoes were two Chinese tourists, both of whom chose to try the same flat, strappy sandals, one pair in black, the other in lavender.

Maybe they couldn’t read the name on the label, or maybe they just didn’t care. At any rate, watching them posing and chatting excitedly in Chinese, I had to admit that the shoes looked very pretty. Sad!