It’s been a rough few months for the Ivanka Trump clothing line, from being dumped by Nordstrom to Kellyanne Conway’s illegal endorsement. Now, things are about to get even hairier. Business of Fashion reports that G-III, the brand’s licenser, has relabeled the collection as the preexisting women’s brand Adrienne Vittadini and sold it to discount retailer Stein Mart—all without the knowledge or consent of the Ivanka Trump brand.
The fashion sleuths over at BoF first discovered the relabeling after obtaining photos of identical blouses at Stein Mart, with one labeled “Ivanka Trump” and the other labeled “Adrienne Vittadini.” G-III, which owns the manufacturing and distribution rights to Ivanka Trump apparel (as well as brands such as DKNY, Donna Karan and Andrew Marc), quickly admitted to the relabeling in a statement to BoF:
G-III accepts responsibility for resolving this issue, which occurred without the knowledge or consent of the Ivanka Trump organization. G-III has already begun to take corrective actions, including facilitating the immediate removal of any mistakenly labelled merchandise from its customer. The Ivanka Trump brand continues to grow and remains very strong.
While this is certainly cause for raised eyebrows, it’s not unusual for a label to change tags before being sold to a discount retailer, and it’s actually not illegal. BoF spoke to Susan Scafidi, professor of fashion law at Fordham Law School and founder of the Fashion Law Institute, about the label swap. “US textile product labelling laws allow substitution of labels, so long as the entity making the substitution is identified on the new label and keeps records for three years,” said Scafidi. Therefore, it could be argued that G-III was trying to keep the Ivanka Trump brand from being associated with discount retailer Stein Mart.
However, considering the controversy surrounding the Trump brand, there may be more to the relabeling than commonplace marketing techniques. Since the election of her father, Ivanka Trump’s brand suffered from weak sales, resulting in the removal of the brand from several prominent retailers, most notably Nordstrom. According to a Stein Mart source, the retailer has received some negative feedback about the Ivanka Trump line, and once a customer spit on a Ivanka blouse before storming out (obviously, we cannot confirm this story, but it doesn’t seem unlikely).
On the other hand, Stein Mart chief executive D. Hunt Hawkins said that they get both praise and complaints regarding the Ivanka brand—he was also quick to point out that Stein Mart doesn’t have much control over what clothes they receive. “I’ve had an equal number of [customers] say that they don’t want and do want [the Ivanka Trump merchandise] in the store. If we get it, we get,” Hawkins told BoF. Stein Mart, like many retailers nowadays, is struggling quite a bit, with sales down four percent. Basically, they just want to stay out of this mess.
While the brand swap may be entirely legal (if, that is, Adrienne Vittadini was made aware of the swap—if they weren’t aware, that’s a whole different story), it still raises some ethical questions. “Of course, the fact that a clothing retailer can legally relabel with certain restrictions doesn’t mean that it should, especially if label-conscious consumers are likely to be outraged by the switch,” said Scafidi. The fashion law professor then ended with this zinger: “Fashion may be trending toward modesty, but when it comes to labels, customers are demanding more transparency than ever.” Quite so.