Donald Trump’s platform as a politician centers largely around an unwavering “America First” agenda—he relentlessly barked it during the campaign and signed a "Buy American and Hire American" executive order as president.
Here’s the thing, though—and it’s far from a secret—the Trump family’s vast portfolio of businesses haven’t exactly practiced this idea, and one of the worst offenders has been Ivanka Trump and her namesake brand of clothing.
The First Daughter's line has come under fire in recent months for a variety of issues, among them the news that activists investigating Ivanka Trump’s factories in China had gone missing, and the release of an audit by industry monitoring group Fair Labor Association that revealed a wide range of labor violations in factories that produce Ivanka Trump clothing.
The latest ding on the brand is a recently published Washington Post deep dive into exactly how Ivanka’s products are manufactured.
The big takeaway is this: The brand relies exclusively on foreign factories in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and China to produce its goods (totally at odds with President Trump’s platform, but in line with what most other American apparel brands are doing; an estimated 97 percent of clothing and shoes bought in the U.S. are produced overseas). However, the label is falling short in its transparency and factory monitoring (something most American companies, including Adidas and Kenneth Cole, are actively doing).
Though brand executives say they have a code of conduct that prohibits things like physical abuse and child labor, the company relies on the suppliers themselves to enforce that, according to The Washington Post.
Let’s follow a pair of jeans to see, exactly, how this is problematic: The Ivanka Trump brand signs a deal with the supplier, the supplier would then contract a factory (or factories) to manufacture those jeans. That's how Trump-branded denim eventually get made in Bangladesh, where garment workers typically earn $70 a month for their labor. The jeans ultimately end up on the rack at stores like Dillard’s, on sale for $89. And any labor issues at the factory that made the jeans? The brand gets to point to the supplier and say its their fault for not living up to certain standards.
So far, the official line from the Ivanka Trump brand has been that it trusts its suppliers to abide by a code of conduct it's written to prohibit physical abuse and child labor in the factories that manufacture is clothes. Forget about allowing customers to research the conditions where the goods are made—the company has no plans of publishing the names and locations of factories that produce its goods according to the Washington Post.
Sharon Waxman, the President and CEO of the Fair Labor Association told Glamour that this is out of step with the standards many American companies are now adhering to, many of which are now publishing the list of their factories online. "All brands are ultimately responsible for what happens in their supply chain," she said. "Products shouldn't come at the cost of workers' rights."
Waxman says an ethical supply chain starts at the top, and that pointing the finger at contractors and suppliers isn't an excuse. "Companies need to have leadership that is committed to ensuring that its products are coming from workers whose rights are supported," she said. "Dignity for workers needs to be supported from a companies headquarters, because that's where a companies policies and procedures are made."
She points to members of the Fair Labor Association who make a commitment to transparently reporting on conditions in their factories and their efforts to improve working conditions as companies taking the right steps.
Of note, Trump, who now works full time in the White House, is not involved in the day to day operations of her business anymore, but she still has an ownership stake in the brand, and her representatives have said she still has the power to nix new deals.
The president of the Ivanka Trump brand, Abigail Klem, told the Post: “The mission of this brand has always been to inspire and empower women to create the lives they want to live and give them tools to do that…We’re looking to ensure that we can sort of live this mission from top to bottom with our licensees, with our supply chain.” Klem also said the company is exploring ways to produce some goods in the U.S. but that “to do it at a large scale is currently not possible.”
Head over to The Washington Post to read the entire report.