Why these women stopped buying Ivanka Trump’s stuff

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NEW YORK — Five years ago, Carolyn Handley walked down the aisle wearing Ivanka Trump shoes in the Trump International Hotel in Chicago. At that point, and until last year, Handley would have called herself a fan of the Trump brands.

“I thought the hotels were great. I thought her clothing line was well designed and well thought out,” said Handley, a Republican who voted for Hillary Clinton for president. At one point she counted almost two dozen Ivanka Trump items in her closet, including about 10 pairs of shoes and three purses.

In the fall, she got rid of them all — including her wedding shoes.

Handley talked about her decision on Twitter, where a number of women have gone to discuss their relationship with the Ivanka Trump brand. CNNMoney reached out to some of them and asked them to elaborate.

Kara Casanova will no longer buy Ivanka Trump products.

Kara Casanova will no longer buy Ivanka Trump products.

They offered insight into why they’re breaking up with — or staying with — Ivanka Trump.

Those who have turned away from the line, for reasons political or otherwise, have made an impact. Online sales of the Ivanka Trump brand dropped 26% in January compared with a year earlier, according to the retail analysis company Slice Intelligence.

Nordstrom dropped the brand — triggering a Twitter attack from the president himself — because it wasn’t selling well. TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Neiman Marcus, Belk and Burlington have all announced plans to eliminate or scale back their inventory of Ivanka Trump products.

Rosemary K. Young, senior director of marketing for the Ivanka Trump brand, has said that sales grew 21% last year, and the company said in a statement for this story that it plans to continue growing this year.

“In recent days, we’ve seen our brand swept into the political fray, becoming collateral damage in others’ efforts to advance agendas unrelated to what we do, which is produce accessible, solution-oriented products for our loyal customers,” the company said.

Retailers have been careful to say that they are dropping Ivanka for business reasons, not politics. But for Handley and others like her, the decision was fueled by disagreements with President Trump.

Carolyn Handley says President Trump's "distasteful campaign" prompted her to stop buying Ivanka Trump products.

Carolyn Handley says President Trump’s “distasteful campaign” prompted her to stop buying Ivanka Trump products.

“It was all about not wanting to put my dollars behind a brand that was a part of such a distasteful campaign,” Handley said. “I have friends in the LGBT community. I have friends that are Muslim or are in mixed race marriages, or immigrants. … I know people that would be personally affected by the policies.”

Jennifer, a Virginia advertising executive who asked that her full name not be used because her comments might upset her conservative clients and because she fears retaliation from Trump supporters, used to spend between $2,000 and $3,000 a year on Ivanka Trump products.

Unlike Handley, Jennifer didn’t make a clean break.

“I had a couple of slip-ups, if you will,” she said.

But since May, she hasn’t bought a thing. Jennifer said there was not one particular incident that made her stop buying Ivanka Trump products. It was the cumulative effect of negative rhetoric.

“I felt really really helpless, I felt really really sad,” she said, “and I thought, well the only thing I can do is absolutely not engage with any of their business brands at all.”

Jennifer felt her decision was validated when she saw the Ivanka Trump brand promote a bracelet that Ivanka had worn during an interview on “60 Minutes.”

“It feels like the only way to have any kind of impact on this family is just to pull financial support,” she said.

Kaye Monk-Morgan, who lives in Wichita, Kansas, agrees.

“It just so happens that with this particular administration, there’s an opportunity to protest with … where we spend our money,” she said.

Monk-Morgan was shopping for shoes with her children in June when she picked up a black loafer — and returned it to the shelf when she saw it was Ivanka Trump-branded. Before that, she had purchased five or six pairs of Ivanka Trump shoes.

“I said, you know what, I’m not going to buy this,” she said. The message for her children, she said, was, “We’re not going to support chaos.”

Kara Casanova, a children’s book author in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, also put a Trump item back on the shelf when she saw the branding.

She’d only purchased a handful of Trump blouses before that day, but she’s since given them away. “I just don’t want to put money into the pockets of any family member associated with this man,” she said. “Everything that comes out of his mouth is offensive to me.”

Soon after the election, Ivanka Trump’s brand attempted to distance itself from the new president. “Our company’s mission is not political — it never was and it never will be,” the company said in a blog post.

Ivanka Trump herself addressed a boycott movement known as #GrabYourWallet back in October, when she told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview, “my advocacy of women, trying to empower them at all aspects of their life started long before this presidential campaign did.”

She added, “I’ve never politicized that message. People who are seeking to politicize it because they may disagree with the politics of my father, there’s nothing I can do to change that.”

And LaToya Wright, a plus-size fashion blogger who lives in Chicago, does see a distinction between Ivanka Trump’s brand and her father’s politics.

“You can’t punish the child for her parent,” she said.

But she draws a line at Ivanka’s silence in the face of her father’s rhetoric. “When your parents get something wrong, you have to speak out about it,” she said. Wright gave away one pair of her Ivanka Trump shoes, and threw out the other three.

Not everyone sees shopping as a political act.

“I feel it’s ridiculous,” a woman who lives in Palm Beach County, Florida, said of boycotting Ivanka Trump’s line. “She really has done so much for women, so I think it’s a little bit unfair.”

The Trump voter, who asked that her name not be used for fear that boycotters will target her real estate business, said she really became aware of Ivanka’s line when someone forwarded her an Ivanka Trump brand email not long before the campaign.

She’s enamored with the six or seven pairs of Ivanka shoes she already owns, and seeks out more online and when she’s in department stores. Lately, however, she’s had a hard time finding them in her size. “A lot of my friends are saying, ‘Where can we find the shoes?'” she said.

Lisa Smid of Nashville, Tennessee, said she thinks Ivanka shouldn’t be grouped with President Trump’s administration.

“I don’t have bad things to say about Ivanka Trump at all. She seems intelligent, well-spoken,” she said, adding, “I would not be comfortable patronizing President Donald Trump’s own brand or ventures.”

Smid is not a consistent buyer of Ivanka Trump brand products, but she recently stumbled across a pair of her shoes while searching on the DSW website. She wondered what her friends would think if they knew she’d ordered them.

Ultimately, she said, “I made the decision to go ahead and make the purchase regardless of what flak I got for it.”

“As you can imagine,” she said, “There’s been more anxiety with these shoes.” She’s still waiting for them to arrive, and she says they’d better be worth it.