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Ivanka Trump is amassing some prime real estate in the footwear world.
Two years after launching with Marc Fisher Footwear, her brand will be distributed in 500 doors for fall, and the founder is now busy plotting international expansion.
"I tend to be somebody who is extremely aggressive in terms of outlook and how I challenge myself to grow," Trump told Footwear News, "but our trajectory has been phenomenal."
After carving out a strong presence with key department stores such as Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's, Trump is expanding into other major doors for fall, including all Von Maur stores and a slew of independents.
Retailers said the brand's mix of versatile, on-trend looks and competitive price points — $50 to $150 for dress and casual styles and less than $300 for boots — has made it a standout. "From the first day the shoes hit the floor, they were an instant success, and [sales] have only gotten stronger with the evolution of the collection," said Lord & Taylor EVP and Chief Merchant Liz Rodbell.
Tacey Powers, Nordstrom's national merchandise manager for women's shoes, agreed, noting that Trump has differentiated herself in a crowded market. "The [collection's] clean lines, modern styling and feminine details are resonating with customers," Powers said. "Ivanka has incorporated a strong wear-to-work aesthetic in the collection that can take a woman from the office to an evening out, and customers are responding well to that versatility."
Marc Fisher Footwear President Susan Itzkowitz said the collection truly reflects Trump's own lifestyle. "Ivanka is more than just a celebrity. Like so many women, she juggles a career with being a mother and a wife, so we've created a full lifestyle assortment of footwear to speak to those needs," Itzkowitz said.
With momentum at home, the designer is ready to start pushing expansion abroad. "Our first priority is to continue to grow our presence and achieve results domestically, [but] being in all the doors here in the U.S. where we want to be, our focus has turned to the international market," Trump said, adding that Asia is a major focus.
The designer also is growing her latest retail venture, Shop.ivankatrump.com. The site, which launched this spring, sells her branded clothes, shoes, jewelry and handbags. (Trump already operates a fine-jewelry store in New York.)
As she builds her fashion venture, branding experts said Trump's ability to personally connect with her consumers will be key.
"What she's done effectively is harness her authentic background — with regard to a great education, sense of style and fashion — and developed a platform that appeals to young women, as well as older women who want to look modern and chic," said Marc Beckman, CEO and founder of Designers Management Agency, a New York-based talent and brand management firm.
"When the masses have the opportunity to feel authentic and buy into an aspirational lifestyle with superior product design and price points appropriate for distribution, it's a winning combination," he added.
In footwear, the business is expected to more than double this year, according to privately held Marc Fisher Footwear, which does not disclose revenue numbers.
Still, Trump stressed that she will approach expansion carefully going forward. "I don't want to grow for the sake of growing," she said. "I want to grow in a smart, strategic and stable way."
How important is the footwear segment in your overall brand strategy?
IT: It was the first category I launched behind fine jewelry. Footwear laid the foundation in the eyes of the consumer and retail partners and [showed] what our brand stands for. That really set the tone for all the subsequent launches. Our strong sell-through gave us some tailwind and allowed us to grow [quickly].
I also work hard to create a relationship with retail partners to make sure they understand I am intimately involved with every detail and extremely committed to each launch's successful execution. I view [my fashion venture] as a long-term [proposition]. I've been very disciplined.
Has it been difficult to balance all the different categories, from shoes to jewelry and handbags?
IT: Everything has been really harmonious. ... The more conversation and the more we're all in a room and collective, the better. Individually, I focus not only on brand position and the direction of any given collection, but also on the individual product. I meet with all my partners separately to look at the execution and design [of each product category]. There's not a shoe I'm not intimately involved in designing.
How has Marc Fisher Footwear played a role in your brand's success?
IT: [Marc and I] knew we were the right fit for one another and we shared a vision for the brand. Both [Marc and his company] have been incredibly instrumental. I want to find partners that are able to execute my vision and are able to help it grow and collaborate with me. There aren't that many people who can create a great shoe construction, especially at our price point. I was very fortunate that I met Marc and we've been so aligned in how we can grow the business.
Let's talk about your growth plans. Would you consider launching a higher-end footwear line?
IT: We've actually been debating product expansion. In handbags, we're working on a new launch to complement our existing bag collection at a higher price point that uses real leather and various skins. We felt it was a natural expansion [that meshes with our] fine jewelry. But with shoes, we found a space we feel we're really owning right now, and I want to focus on that part of the business because we're doing it right and enjoying a lot of success.
Would you ever consider doing a designer collaboration?
IT: I wouldn't rule it out. But the [Ivanka Trump] designs are reflective of what I want to wear, and I'm not seeing [anything like it] elsewhere. So at this point, there's not an immediate need to do that.
What is your strategy for global expansion?
IT: We enjoyed immediate success in Canada, and we've done extremely well in Israel and Mexico. Now, we are putting together a larger strategy in China. I have an independent freestanding fine-jewelry store opening in Beijing. That will be a good litmus test for the region.
Do you plan to expand into additional categories moving forward?
IT: There are several we're looking at actively. For me, it's about finding the right partner to execute my vision and share my sensibility and commitment to the brand.