THE KIDS STAY IN THE PICTURE: Ivanka Trump tapped little-known Petit Peony designer Kate Bowen to create clothing for some of her children’s inaugural weekend attire. But Oscar de la Renta’s Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia suited them up for Friday’s main event.
All three of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s children wore Oscar de la Renta outfits at the swearing-in ceremony. At the Arlington National Cemetery ceremony Thursday, Arabella Kushner wore a navy wool coat with a velvet collar, designed by Petit Peony’s Bowen. Trump’s daughter also wore a Petit Peony ivory coat and coordinating dress for Saturday’s National Prayer Service and her two sons wore charcoal wool coats from the label.
Petit Peony’s founder taught herself how to sew three years ago, after giving up a job in Boston’s medical device industry to take an 18-month breather in Vermont. “We, literally, lived on a dirt road; I was home with my kids, I was going crazy so I just started sewing and creating my daughters’ coordinating wardrobe,” she said Friday.
Now based in Duxbury, Mass., Petit Peony opened an office/boutique/showroom in September and has distribution in 85 stores. The label has tripled in volume due to the designs translating well with people in coastal New England, she said. Last year a former colleague connected Bowen with Trump who became a customer and featured Petit Peony on her Women Who Work site. The designer also created patriotic clothing for Arabella Kushner to wear last fall.
Bowen was also featured in Trump’s campaign to raise awareness around the multidimensionality of women in the workforce “whether you’re a women entrepreneur, a stay-at-home-mom or a woman in the corporate world.” Asked to choose a word that described her work days, Bowen chose “multitask” and was photographed with her three children and an Ivanka Trump handbag — an image that Trump later retweeted, Bowen said. (Trump has since taken a formal leave of absence from her company.)
Bowen said, “After her father won the presidency I didn’t reach out to see if I could design. I just figured she had a bunch of designers already lined up and I’m such a small brand. I was focusing on soft, practical cotton dresses that told a story. I wasn’t in high-end luxury.”
Despite that, Trump reached out to Bowen to ask her to design some clothing for the inaugural weekend events. Enthusiastic as she was about the project, she said, “On the inside, I started to panic because I’ve never designed or produced a wool coat or a lined gorgeous velvet dress. It was challenging but really rewarding. I was able to go to her house three times for fittings and spend time with her children.”
Noting that red, white and blue ensembles were planned for Trump’s daughter for the three-day celebration, Bowen said, “I was working with their nannies and the head of the household a lot. They said Ivanka wanted a different [children’s] designer for each event. But then she ended up choosing us for two of the three so I thought that was pretty exciting.”
Last year, Petit Peony produced 17,000 units, which includes the Magic Balloon label for TJ Maxx, and this year the projection is 100,000 units, Bowen said. In addition to the large volume generated by the discount chain, relocating near Boston, selling in Japan and enhancing the e-commerce business and specialty store distribution has bolstered sales, she said.
“This is not a political play for me. I really believe in her and what she stands for. I think she’s a woman of her word,“ Bowen said. “She said she is moving to Washington to work on leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs. She gave someone from a very small company a chance to design for her children for two of the three events. I think that really says something about her. She’s not into the label. It doesn’t matter to her if it’s a really high-end designer. It’s just about helping women, elevating women, supporting women — I think she’s a woman of her word.”