Despite taking steps to distance herself from the label that bears her name, Ivanka Trump continues to be drawn into issues impacting the brand she founded in 2007.
Labor-rights group China Labor Watch has sent a four-page appeal to the first daughter and aid to President Donald Trump asking her to help facilitate the release of three activists who were detained in China after investigating factories that supplied shoes for her brand as well as other U.S. companies, Bloomberg reports.
In the letter, reportedly sent to the White House on Tuesday, the New York-based advocacy group said the undercover activists were targeted because they were investigating a supplier connected to the Ivanka Trump brand.
“In the past 17 years, China Labor Watch has conducted hundreds of factory investigations and yet this is the first time our investigators face criminal detention,” Li Qiang, executive director of organization, wrote in the letter, the first page of which was seen by Bloomberg. “We believe the reason to that is pertaining to the supplier factories of your brands particularly.”
Qiang further asks Ivanka Trump, in the letter, to use “your influence to help us advocate for the release of our investigators.”
“After discussions with our licensee, we have determined that Ivanka Trump brand products have not been produced at the factory in question since March,” said Klem. “Our licensee works with many footwear production factories, and all factories are required to operate within strict social compliance regulations.”
Marc Fisher Footwear is currently the brand’s footwear licensee, meaning that the firm is responsible producing Ivanka Trump’s shoes. Marc Fisher also produces footwear for Guess, Tommy Hilfiger and Kendall + Kylie.
China Labor Watch said last month that one activist was arrested and two others were missing after they attempted to investigate conditions at factories that produce shoes for several U.S. brands, including the Ivanka Trump collection.
The three activists were presumed detained by the Chinese government. The U.S. State Department on Monday stepped in to formally call for the release of the activists.
“We urge China to release them immediately and otherwise afford them the judicial and fair trial protections to which they are entitled,” said Alicia Edwards, a State Department spokeswoman.
Chinese officials reportedly dismissed the United States’ urging at a press briefing on Tuesday, CNN reports.
“The judicial authorities of China can handle relevant cases according to our own laws and regulations,” Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reportedly said. “Other nations have no right to intervene.”
Throughout President Trump’s campaign run, both his line as well as Ivanka Trump’s came under significant criticism for their use of China-based factories — actions deemed inconsistent with the candidate’s protectionist rhetoric.
In October, Ivanka Trump’s label fielded accusations that Xuankai Shoes allegedly mistreated workers by paying low wages and requiring excessive hours of labor.
However, at that time, Marc Fisher Footwear called the reports erroneous.
“The factory produces several brands for Marc Fisher Footwear along with other American and Japanese brands that have strict social compliance regulations,” the spokesperson told Footwear News exclusively in October. “Routinely, Marc Fisher Footwear and its licensers have our production factories inspected … The social compliance audits performed over the past 12 months have resulted in approvals to proceed with production. Marc Fisher Footwear also has a consultant in China that provides social compliance reviews and audits. Earlier this year, the factory Xuankai was audited by our consultant with no compliance violations.”
The spokesperson said the factory in question, which was established in March 2012 and employs about 450 workers, also produced for several of Marc Fisher’s other footwear brands, which include Guess and Tommy Hilfiger.
The spokesperson added, “According to the local labor bureau in Dongguan, there are no labor disputes with the Xuankai factory. We require factory social compliance, and as a privately held company, we choose not to work with any partners that we feel don’t operate as such.”