Expect to see a whole lot more of the Trump name — and not just in real estate news.
Ivanka Trump, businesswoman and first daughter of developer Donald Trump, has already taken on more than her executive role in her father’s company, bowing a namesake, high-end jewelry collection and writing a best-selling book offering young women tips for getting ahead. Now she’s taking on shoes.
Teaming up with Marc Fisher Footwear, the 28-year-old is debuting a complete collection of moderately priced footwear for spring ’11, which includes a mix of stilettos, flip-flops, sneakers and ballet flats. The line, Trump said, showcases her affinity for sophisticated and elegant looks and weaves in contemporary and modern twists.
“There’s a great opportunity to position stylish, yet refined, shoes,” she said of the collection, which debuts at FFANY next week. “What you tend to see are totally unwearable, over-the-top styles, or [looks that are] comfortable to the point of forgoing any appealing aesthetic. I’m going for the middle.”
Though price points are still being worked out, Marc Fisher Footwear President Susan Itzkowitz said the 75-to-100-style line is tentatively priced between $80 and $140 and is being targeted to department stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico in its first season.
“There’s a real niche for a line like this,” said Itzkowitz. “Every part of the collection will be very reflective of Ivanka, [and] it gives us an opportunity to have a beautifully executed line for that classy, contemporary woman. It gives us a whole new dimension to our business.”
While Trump also has partnered with handbag licensee Mondani on a collection for spring ’11 and spun out her jewelry line to wholesale, the Wharton School of Business grad said she’s content — for now — to focus on these ventures.
“I don’t take these partnerships lightly. It’s about creating a sustainable, long-term business,” she said.
FN: Why did you decide to delve into footwear?
IT: [In the moderate market], you don’t see the same level of refinement in terms of the shape of a shoe that you do at higher price points, and there’s no reason for that. At lower price points, people seem to love the razzle-dazzle glitter, and that’s just not what I respond to. It’s overly trendy, flashy, a lot of hardware and just too much going on. There isn’t a lot [of product] in the mid-price range for women who want to wear an elegant pair of shoes to work but also look cool and glamorous at night. So there’s a great opportunity to position stylish, yet refined, shoes.
FN: We’re coming out of a pretty rough economic time. Was that a consideration as you ventured into a new category?
IT: There are always concerns when you’re launching a new business. But at the end of the day, all you can do is best position a product to fill a niche. Our price points are accessible, the product will be superior to anything out there, and I have a great partner. That’s a recipe for success, and we wouldn’t have gotten into the arrangement if we had questions about our ability to be successful.
FN: How did the partnership with Marc Fisher Footwear come about?
IT: [The company] is very well known, so it didn’t require a tremendous amount of validation, but a lot of friends [in the business] have talked to me about how Marc Fisher would be an extremely strong partner. Brand extensions are a combination of timing, market niche and finding the right partner. I met Susan, and within two weeks, we pretty much had a signed deal. It was just the right fit at the right time. Of course, it’s an added convenience [that we are both in the same building]. I’ve been joking that a requirement of working with me would be taking space at Trump Towers and paying $150 a square foot in rent.
FN: Between real estate, jewelry and now footwear, you’re a busy lady. How hands-on are you with the development of the shoe collection?
IT: I’m [always] ripping pages out of magazines and forwarding them to Marc with a note saying, “This is a beautiful style,” or “I love this fabric — let’s try to figure out a way to incorporate something like this.” I’m very involved and have a concrete concept of what I like and what I don’t. I do take this form of self-expression extremely seriously, and it’s important that every shoe I put out is both something I would wear and reflective of my personal style.
FN: How is your personal style woven into the look of the line?
IT: I like glamorous, classic [styles] and don’t want things that are overly trendy or seasonal. I tend to be drawn to more timeless pieces, but I also want a bit of edge. I tend to like pointed toes and thinner, stiletto-type heels over heavier, clunkier styles. But I recognize that I’m on my feet a lot at work, and the shoe has to feel good. I’ll also have a line of sneakers, flip-flops and flats because that’s pretty much all I wear on the weekends. It really [spans] day to night and beach to city.
FN: Being famous must have helped you launch the brand, but are there also drawbacks to being so recognizable?
IT: The drawbacks are more personal: I don’t have a lot of time, I don’t sleep a tremendous amount, and there’s always something new to focus on, in addition to maintaining and growing everything I’m already doing. Professionally, the only negative is the assumption that [the collection] is not a genuine partnership and is more of a passive interest or a purely monetary endeavor.
FN: What does it take to make a celebrity line successful?
IT: Nobody wants to buy a pair of Ivanka Trump shoes or a pair of Ivanka Trump earrings unless they like Ivanka Trump. And if they like Ivanka Trump, they know how I dress, how I look. If [the collection] doesn’t reflect that, [consumers] won’t be interested. It’s really that simple. The greatest way to validate [the line] and create buzz is to wear your product. I always wear my jewelry and don’t bother wearing anything else. What’s the point?
FN: Are there any mistakes you’re trying to avoid?
IT: The biggest pitfalls would be if the product wasn’t designed well, if the launch wasn’t executed well, or if you simply regarded it as a publicity opportunity. You have to constantly nourish [a brand] and support it, and I’m not sure that every celebrity signs up for that kind of commitment. I hope to be doing this for a long time. I’ll be able to evolve the design and the aesthetic as my tastes change, and as I grow up a little. The interest in me as a partner isn’t based on a hit single or a current blockbuster movie.
FN: How is making footwear different from making jewelry?
IT: Shoes have to be well engineered. There’s a lot that goes into a shoe that you don’t have to think about for a pair of earrings. You think about the weight of a pair of earrings. With shoes, it’s more [complicated to create] a comfortable, 4-inch pump to wear during a 12-hour workday.
FN: What other categories would you eventually like to see under the Ivanka Trump umbrella?
IT: I don’t sign a deal and move on, and right now I’m focused on the execution of jewelry, shoes and handbags. But there are other categories — like sunglasses — that, at the right time and with the right partner, would be very interesting. Apparel is sort of the next natural step, but for now, I’ve got quite a bit on my plate.
FN: How do you ensure a cohesive look is applied across the brand?
IT: Once a month, I gather all my friends at Marc Fisher, [handbag licensee] Mondani, Ivanka Trump Diamond and Trump Hotel Collection in one room to talk about what we’re working on. We’ll have design meetings [where we talk about the shoes and the bags], which colors were a focal point and the materials being used, so they can create a full look. One of the clasps from the jewelry collection inspired details on two pairs of pumps. There are a lot of benefits to everyone coordinating their efforts.
FN: Do you have plans for an Ivanka Trump footwear boutique?
IT: For now, it makes sense to embrace retail partnerships that give us access to more customers and have so many more points of sale. That’s something I’m focusing on with the jewelry, as well. We launched a wholesale collection three months ago, and have gotten incredible commitments [from] more than 45 retailers domestically, and many more internationally.
FN: How has social networking played a role in developing your brand?
IT: I have around 900,000 followers [on Twitter], and it’s been a great way for me to communicate about the things I’m working on, get feedback and have a dialogue. It’s really gained a lot of traction, and now I’m working on a pretty incredible Facebook page. Few brands have a person behind them, and [social networking] is a great way to speak to people.
FN: Your father certainly knows about branding. Is his business model one you’d like to emulate?
IT: I can’t even comprehend why somebody — unless their brand lacks credibility — wouldn’t use their name. People may be drawn to a shoe because somebody they identify with designs it, but they’re not going to make a purchase unless the product is great. My father has created an incredible platform and a brand synonymous with success and luxury. To disassociate myself would be a very big strategic error.
FN: A lot of people would assume you could have joined the Trump organization regardless of what you studied in college. Why was the business degree important?
IT: The interesting thing about being in a family business is that you’re given great responsibility, probably in excess of what your actual experience warrants. You either sink or swim. I definitely manage and have direct responsibility for things that somebody in my age range would not [normally] be in charge of. There’s tremendous privilege and responsibility. I tap into any resource to enable me to make better decisions.
FN: Who are some of your fashion icons?
IT: Grace Kelly was incredible, and so was Audrey Hepburn. [I’ve always admired] people whose beauty, grace, poise and style transcend the generations. In terms of contemporary women, Gwyneth Paltrow has great, classic and a little bit preppy-but-elegant style.
FN: What about footwear designers?
IT: I’m no longer giving them good press! [Laughs]
FN: You’ve been on “The Apprentice” for a few years now. Any ambition to do more TV?
IT: Truthfully, no. I get asked to do a lot of things, like be a host on morning shows or do outrageous things like be on “The Bachelorette” [before I was married]. I don’t think so. Some of it is beneficial to our business, and that’s interesting. I go on CNBC quite a bit — and that’s a good place for me to be — but “The Apprentice” is a lot to handle in itself.
FN: When you manage to carve out some time, what do you do for fun?
IT: I’m no longer at the stage where I’m going to clubs, and instead tend to do more low-key things, liking cooking and hosting dinner parties with really interesting people. I’m a movie addict, too, [and I] love the salacious stuff like “Gossip Girl” and “The Tudors.” I’m so upset [that show] is done, but I guess [Henry VIII] ran out of wives.