Just days into the administration, the Trump family’s potential impact on fashion is as big a question as more pressing policy issues.
So much so, that a few retail specialists posed their own questions in response to how the President, First Lady, Ivanka Trump and other members of the extended family may influence trends and affect sales for better or for worse.
One fashion insider, who asked not to be named, said, “All of the Trump women were dressed beautifully, and they will set a very nice example for ladylike dressing.”
Fashion consultant Julie Gilhart said, “How it affects retail? The customer is learning how they can create results through their actions. Let me tell you, buying is an action so when you purchase something that’s an action. I think more and more people are understanding that.”
L.L. Bean experienced a dose of that earlier this month when an anti-Trump group said L.L. Bean should be considered for a boycott because an heiress of the company made political donations supporting Trump. In response, Trump tried to come to the aid of L.L. Bean by tweeting his support of the Freeport, Maine-based company and urging people to buy its products.
Gilhart continued, “It’s hard to predict [how the Trump family will have an effect on fashion.] Everyone is watching. So I think, yes, everyone is watching and when you are watching it has an effect on you one way or another. “
Noting that Melania Trump and Ivanka are “very beautiful people, they wear clothes nicely,” Gilhart said, “Let’s just see. At some point we have to be open about things. Fashion to me is just such a small part of what this new administration means.”
RetailNext’s vice president of retail consulting Shelley Kohan said, “The Trump family certainly will have an impact on fashion, but it may not be solely focused on the First Lady as has historically been the case. Ivanka has a strong sense of fashion and is always stylishly dressed. She represents aspirational fashion and lives a lifestyle that represents high fashion and jet-setting. In some regards, her fashion edginess is reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy’s high style. Ivanka will certainly have an impact on women’s fashion. Melania will also have an impact on fashion as well, although what we have seen so far is more conservative.”
Another retail analyst, who asked not to be identified, acknowledged that historically there have been some strong fashion influencers like Jackie Kennedy, and asked, “Was Jackie simply good at wearing fashion-right products or did she change the way people dressed? Did people want to dress more fashionably because Jackie did?”
The analyst questioned whether it was more a matter of an attractive young woman wearing trendy clothes that amplified those existing trends, suggesting she may have tuned into “what was happening in Paris, Milan and the covers of Women’s Wear Daily” and chose to take advantage of it, by looking as sharp as can be. Similarly, Melania Trump, like Kennedy did, “dresses very well, very fashionable, but the question is, ‘Is she setting fashion by wearing fashion?’ I’m not sure that that is true. I don’t think it’s true for any of the Trump women.”
As for whether the President influences fashion, he said, “to some degree,” but made the point that despite the [George W.] Bush White House being “a suit-and-tie White House” that did not impact men’s apparel sales. “Not that we could tell, other forces were far greater in driving men’s apparel sales.” he said.
Nino Saviano, a Republican strategist and president of Savi Political Consulting, which is based in Washington, D.C., offered a more critical view, “Donald Trump chose not to deviate, unfortunately I might add, from what has been a pretty consistent choice of suit and tie on the campaign trial throughout the election season — a dark, shiny suit with a solid red tie. While the suit is less of an issue as he wore a conservative overcoat throughout the day, Trump’s choice of a red tie is one that is meant to both project power and appeal to his political base. But he’s not going in for an election debate. As a newly elected president, he speaks to the entire nation on inauguration day. I am not sure this is the kind of image to be projected here. There is certainly a deeper meaning to the tie color and it points right to the approach he intends to bring into the White House from day one.”