Exclusive: Ivanka Trump’s Business Partner Responds to Reports of Workers’ Rights Violations

Ivanka Trump’s footwear licensing partner Marc Fisher Footwear wants to set the record straight.

The daughter of the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is facing a new level of media attention as her father ramps up his bid for the role of U.S. commander in chief. And with that attention comes a deep probe into Ivanka Trump’s business practices.

Most recently, she faced allegations that a China-based factory manufacturing shoes for her eponymous label, the Ivanka Trump collection, has been engaged in unethical labor practices. Reports have called out the factory— Xuankai Shoes Co., based in China’s Houjie Town, Dongguan City of Guangdong Province — for the alleged mistreatment of workers, including low wages and excessive working hours.

However, Ivanka Trump business partner New York-based Marc Fisher Footwear — which manages the brand’s production and sourcing — is calling the reports erroneous.

Marc Fisher Footwear works with many footwear production factories, [and] all factories are required to operate within our social compliance requirements,” a spokesperson told Footwear News exclusively.

The spokesperson said the factory in question, which was established in March 2012 and employs about 450 workers, also produces for several of Marc Fisher’s other footwear brands, which include Guess and Tommy Hilfiger.

“The factory produces several brands for Marc Fisher Footwear along with other American and Japanese brands that have strict social compliance regulations,” the spokesperson said. “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 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.”

Matt Priest, president of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, said his organization works closely with hundreds of U.S. footwear firms, advising them on best practices for sourcing.

For his part, Priest said he doesn’t believe that Ivanka Trump and Marc Fisher’s footwear sourcing habits are “out of the ordinary.”

“[Approximately] 76 percent of all our shoes sold in the United States come from China, and if you look at where this factory is located — it’s in Houjie area of Guangdong province — it’s in the shoe production capital of the world,” Priest said. “So to fault someone for sourcing shoes from the shoe production capital of the world seems a little out of context to me.”

The larger issue for some, however, may be the fact that Ivanka Trump’s choice to source globally seems in conflict with the tenets espoused by her father, who has promised to create jobs in America instead of China and other countries.

What’s more, reports have surfaced that Xuankai’s management plans to move the company’s production to a cheaper sourcing hub in Ethiopia, spurring further concern for some.

“[The FDRA] just did a trade mission in Ethiopia two weeks ago — so [trading with] Ethiopia is actually of real importance to us,” Priest explained. “It seems to me that [Marc Fisher and Ivanka Trump] are looking for opportunities to manufacture their shoes in an emerging market that has duty-free access to the U.S., whereas China does not.”

Priest said this practice is also not new or extraordinary in the footwear industry.

“My [reaction to all of this] is: ‘There’s nothing to see here,’ ” the FDRA president said.

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