On Inauguration Day, President Trump stood in front of the U.S. Capitol and vowed that his “America First” agenda would bring jobs back to the United States.
“We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs,” he declared, adding: “We will follow two simple rules — buy American and hire American.”
Looking on from the front of the stage was Trump’s daughter Ivanka, the celebrity and fashion entrepreneur who would soon join him in the White House.
The first daughter’s cause would be improving the lives of working women, a theme she had developed at her clothing line. She also brought a direct link to the global economy the president was railing against — a connection that was playing out at that very moment on the Pacific coast.
As the Trumps stood on stage, a hulking container ship called the OOCL Ho Chi Minh City was pulling into the harbor of Long Beach, Calif., carrying around 500 pounds of foreign-made Ivanka Trump spandex-knit blouses.
Another 10 ships hauling Ivanka Trump-branded shoes, cardigans and leather handbags bound for the United States were floating in the north Pacific and Atlantic oceans and off the coasts of Malta, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea and Yemen.
Those global journeys — along with millions of pounds of Ivanka Trump products imported into the United States in more than 2,000 shipments since 2010 — illustrate how her business practices collide with some of the key principles she and her father have championed in the White House.
While President Trump has chastised companies for outsourcing jobs overseas, an examination by The Washington Post has revealed the extent to which Ivanka Trump’s company relies exclusively on foreign factories in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and China, where low-wage laborers have limited ability to advocate for themselves.
And while Ivanka Trump published a book this spring declaring that improving the lives of working women is “my life’s mission,” The Post found that her company lags behind many in the apparel industry when it comes to monitoring the treatment of the largely female workforce employed in factories around the world.
From big brands such as Adidas and Kenneth Cole to smaller, newer players like California-based Everlane, many U.S. clothing companies have in recent years made protecting factory workers abroad a priority — hiring independent auditors to monitor labor conditions, pressing factory owners to make improvements and providing consumers with details about the overseas facilities where their goods are produced.
But the Trump brand has taken a more hands-off approach. Although executives say they have a code of conduct that prohibits physical abuse and child labor, the company relies on its suppliers to abide by the policy.
The clothing line declined to disclose the language of the code.
Trump, who now works full time in the White House, has stepped away from daily operations of her business. She has assumed a high-profile place on the world stage — a role that was on display last weekend when she briefly filled in for her father during a meeting with foreign leaders, seated between the president of China and the British prime minister.
Trump still owns her company, which has faced increasing scrutiny in recent months for its use of overseas factories, and her representatives have said she has the power to veto new deals.
Trump did not respond to requests for comment about what efforts she made to oversee her company’s supply chain before she joined the administration.
Her attorney Jamie Gorelick told The Post in a statement that Trump is “concerned” about recent reports regarding the treatment of factory workers and “expects that the company will respond appropriately.”
In the wake of Trump’s departure, the brand has begun to explore hiring a nonprofit workers’ rights group to increase oversight of its production and help improve factory conditions, the company’s executives told The Post.
Abigail Klem, who has been a top executive at the brand since 2013 and its president since January, said she is planning her first trip to tour some of the facilities that make Ivanka Trump products in the coming year.
Klem said she is confident that the company’s suppliers operate “at the highest standards,” adding, “Ivanka sought to partner with the best in the industry.”
The company had not yet matched the policies of other labels because it was newer and smaller, she added, but is now focusing on what more it can do.
“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,” Klem said. “We’re looking to ensure that we can sort of live this mission from top to bottom with our licensees, with our supply chain.”
The company still has no immediate plans to follow the emerging industry trend of publishing the names and locations of factories that produce its goods. It declined to provide a list of the facilities.