Tags: Trump Administration | Ivanka | Trump | Luxury | Spa | Swanky | Business

Ivanka Trump Makes a Bet on Luxury Spas That Carry Her Full Name

Ivanka Trump Makes a Bet on Luxury Spas That Carry Her Full Name
(Getty/Win McNamee)

Thursday, 22 June 2017 09:14 AM

On the second floor of a twisting glass tower in downtown Vancouver sits a spa decorated in subdued hues, dark wood, and plum orchids. Metal chain-link curtains hang near the floor-to-ceiling windows, ensuring privacy in a 5,000-square-foot space.

The walls of the individual changing rooms are tiled with slabs of polished grey stone and the glass showers are back-lit in purple. Children can be pampered with special treatments alongside well-coiffed parents. In the Super Suite, a double-sized hot tub sprinkled with flower petals awaits couples who can retreat for a detoxifying mineral bath, steam shower, or a $355 side-by-side 60-minute massage.

Welcome to the new Spa by Ivanka Trump, one of two such locations in the world. Located at Trump hotels in Vancouver and Washington, these are the first spas to bear Ivanka’s full name–previous iterations simply used the surname made famous by her father.

Both opened in the past nine months, leveraging the 35-year-old’s sudden global profile to sell diamond brightening treatments and something called a “hydrafacial” with peptides and hyaluronic acid. The spa says Ivanka, now an assistant to U.S. President Donald Trump, selected the products and treatments, including lavender-infused towels, tangerine & fig butter cream, and Babor skincare products.

Since Trump took up her White House role as an unpaid government employee, making her legally bound to ethics rules, she has traded in spa-designing and hotel deal-making for matters of state. Yet that hasn’t prevented her from capitalizing on the name.

Along with the spas, her fashion label plans to enter new product categories and expand abroad. Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, which handles her trademarks, is continuing to push into unexplored commercial spaces. Two months ago, the company submitted proof to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that the Ivanka Trump mark for “health spa services” was being used in association with the spa business, updating an existing filing and earning “actual use” status.

A spokesperson for the Trump Organization said Ivanka Trump has taken a leave of absence from her role within the company, though her design influence on the spa business endures. “The original design concept and treatment menu were completed before the opening of the hotels, and while Ivanka no longer has any connection to the spa, the original concept remains,” the spokesperson said.

Because such dealings were completed before she accepted an official government role, they’re not so much ethically thorny as “ongoing business as usual” for the Trumps, said Jordan Libowitz, director of communications at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. 

“It’s hard to raise an issue when it’s about things that she already had,” he said. “The issue is about the business deals that take place after she became a government employee—those are the ones to closely watch.”

But the key question facing Ivanka Trump the entrepreneur is just how much extra luster comes with her name being out front.

While the spas are the swankiest thing still attached to her brand, the rest of Trump’s commercial enterprise has gone decidedly down-market since the days when she sold diamond jewelry in opulent boutiques and fancy department stores. Years ago, Trump had sought to win over the sophisticated luxury shopper, those willing to shell out thousands of dollars for gold and gemstones, and tried to sell them on her spa business, too.

In recent years, though, consumer opinion of the Trump brand has pushed her out of the jewelry case and onto the discount rack. The Ivanka Trump fashion label now sits alongside such names as Banana Republic and Ann Taylor.

And these days, of course, there’s the acidic political climate. Opening spas under Ivanka’s full name “softens the Trump blow” for people entering a Trump hotel, said Bruce Himelstein, a former executive at Loews and Ritz-Carlton who now runs consulting firm BJH Group. 

Perhaps so, but it’s become clear from protests and counter-protests since the election that the Ivanka Trump brand is also problematic for many retailers. Some have dropped her products altogether. Others have sought to appease those who detest her father by dropping her label from websites, while simultaneously nodding to his supporters by stocking her items in stores.

Perhaps if executives push Ivanka’s spas as a standalone, Himelstein said, it may set her apart from the fray. But then there’s the question of the spa itself: “To a certain percentage of the population, there’s a cache,” he explained. “To others, it’s just, ‘what does Ivanka know about spas?’”

In April 2016, Ivanka Trump took center stage at an event in Doral, Florida. Dressed in a white, blue, and yellow sundress from her own fashion label, she was there to help debut spa suites at a newly revamped Trump resort. The over-the-top rooms are decked out with breccia marble-finished bathrooms and griege onyx tables. Trump beamed while describing them to the press and VIPs gathered in the courtyard. “They’re the most spacious suites on the property,” she said, standing beside Doral’s mayor. “The most luxurious.”

While she designed the spa at Doral, this wasn’t a Spa by Ivanka Trump. In fact, most of the Trump-labeled spas, including the suite complex at Doral, don’t bear her name even though she’s been spearheading the projects for years. It was only after she started appearing at her father’s side during the campaign that the hotel chain began betting her name could be a draw.

Washington was the first test. Located five blocks from the White House within the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Trump International Hotel Washington boasts the first-ever Ivanka Suite, which runs for $1,050 a night, and the original Spa by Ivanka Trump. She boasted when it opened last September that the building has “the potential to be the finest in the country in terms of the amenities.”

Beyond lavish spas, she also started overseeing design for new Trump hotels (as well as the $250 million renovation of the Doral). So involved was Ivanka Trump that at the 2008 opening of a Trump hotel in Chicago, Donald Trump ceded the podium to his daughter when asked about the venue’s offerings.

Unsurprisingly, she played a major role in establishing the Trump outpost in Vancouver, one of the tallest buildings in the city which also houses luxury condos, a hotel, a pool bar, and a champagne lounge. As the first new hotel to open under the Trump banner since Donald Trump became president, the property has drawn much controversy.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson at one point called for Trump’s name to be removed, saying his “name and brand have no more place on Vancouver’s skyline than his ignorant ideas have in the modern world.” More controversy was triggered by Ivanka Trump’s meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in February, raising concerns over conflicts-of-interest.

It’s unclear whether there will be more Ivanka Trump spas, or if any existing clubs will be rebranded, but trademark applications abroad suggest she’s at least positioning herself for future expansion. In April, she won provisional approval for new trademarks in China—including one for spa services. 

But there’s much more in store than spas, it seems. Since her father’s election, Ivanka Trump Marks has filed three requests to use variations of her name on clothing. Between Jan. 31 and June 20, a total of 10 marks gained preliminary approval. In May, as she prepared to accompany her father abroad, federal regulators gave initial approval to ensure her name’s exclusive use to sell bras and hosiery. Since last month, the brand has been told it will likely gain approval for use of name logos on rain ponchos and scarves.

Four trademarks have been officially registered since January: For handbags, online and retail jewelry stores, and rain gear. Two of Ivanka Trump’s applications have been used in sales this year—sweatshirts sold through Amazon.com and the spa and fitness center in Washington.

But the spas on either side of the continent remain her most luxurious endeavor. In her May 2 self-help book, Women Who Work, Ivanka Trump tells readers that relaxation is just as important as “seizing meaningful moments” in the quest for personal fulfillment.

The question for Trump is whether consumers can remain relaxed when they look up and see her name.

© Copyright 2019 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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Ivanka Trump's full name graces luxury spas offering diamond brightening and citrus drenches. But will it make a difference in this climate?
Ivanka, Trump, Luxury, Spa, Swanky, Business
Thursday, 22 June 2017 09:14 AM
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