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Ivanka Trump on Designing for the Modern Working Woman

Last night, we headed down to SoHo to visit Ivanka Trump at her Mercer Street flagship. Although the space opened last fall as a showcase for her fine jewelry collection, yesterday marked its grand reopening as a bona fide lifestyle boutique. The Trump family never does anything on a small scale, after all, and this is Donald's daughter we're talking about.

The two-level store now houses Ivanka's shoes, handbags and clothing—and eyewear and fragrance are coming soon. I sat down with the Ivanka to discuss her design beginnings, the expansion of her brand and why she loves catering to the "self-purchasing female."

Lucky: How did you first develop an interest in design, and what was the first category you tackled?

Ivanka Trump: I started with jewelry—than continued on to shoes, handbags, and apparel from there. For me, it's always been more about a specific sensibility. I'm not a professional designer, but I have a very specific aesthetic, a very specific look that I like. And since I got my start working in hotels, I oversee the design of our stores, too.

Did you spy a gap in the market from the get-go?

Yes, exactly. I started in fine jewelry because there were a lot of jewelers at the time who were very stone-centric, a lot who really tailored the retail experience to the male customer—when really, at the end of the day, even if it's not the woman who's actually going into the store, she's sending her husband in because she knows what she wants. Nobody was really speaking to the self-purchasing female. And the empowered woman, the professional woman—that's someone I try to design for and create a shopping environment for with everything I do.

Makes sense—working women do so much of the buying nowadays!

I have so many friends who are professionals and need to look a certain way when they're at the office—and there really aren't that many great choices for them. There's the black pantsuit, sure, which everyone has three of...and then the scales tip in the direction of the super-expensive. It's either really dowdy or extremely expensive. There's not much in the middle that focuses on youthful, polished, but also affordable pieces.

What was the first item you ever designed?

Diamond tassel earrings from the jewelry collection. I think they're really evocative of the aesthetic of my collection in general, actually, because they're elegant, feminine...traditional, but with a modern spin.

How do you keep your brand's identity strong, now that you have all these different lines?

I think everything has to work as a collective. I've spent a lot of time ensuring that my handbag line has a look and feel that's in sympatico with the shoe collection, and everything else that I'm doing. There's a lot of crossover between the collections—I'll have a piece of hardware on a bag that mimics the hardware on a shoe that was inspired by a clasp on a coat, for example.

You're opening a bunch of new stores this year. What told you it was time to expand?

We've had this one retail store for the past year right here in Soho, but it was getting a tremendous amout of foot traffic...people who wanted to peruse but who couldn't necessarily afford fine jewelry prices. Fine jewelry is very buyer-specific, so we really wanted to create a curated store that carried the best from across all our different categories. From there, we're opening a location in Beijing in the fall, and then four others in China will follow. I'm actually heading over to China to speak at a hotel conference in October. I'm excited...I've been to Hong Kong and Shanghai, but never to Beijing!

I like the "accessories on the top floor, clothes on bottom" layout of this new space. Will that carry over to your new locations?

I think this is a very specific space, so it works for here. But I'm in real estate, so I like playing around with and reconfiguring spaces. I do think the look and feel of the brand will carry over to the others—with these tufted walls, for instance.

How would you describe your own personal style?

Feminine and classic, but with a bit of a youthful twist. Our jewelry motto is "rock tradition," and I think there's an element of that in how I dress. I do tend to gravitate towards Old Hollywood glamour, but I like ease in everything I wear. Like, even our heavier, serious diamond earrings have a lightness to them.

How about your beauty routine—what are some of your favorite products?

I love Purpose face soap—I've been using it since I was 15! I love Chapstick, and Maybelline's Great Lash mascara...

That's pretty low-maintenance—I like it. OK, lastly, what trends are you feeling for fall?

I'm very excited about the return of leather. And I'm crazy about Balmain's embellished pants—I just love the whole embellished trend in general!

All images courtesy of Jeff Fried Photography.

Ivanka Trump, 109 Mercer Street, New York, NY 10012


A look at the redesigned Soho flagship's interior.

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