The East Wing has traditionally played an important role in shaping an administration’s soft power. While fashion isn’t a priority for Washington D.C, the new administration might just be the one to change that. Washington’s culture naturally changes with each administration, and the Trump family, or at least the female flank, seem to suggest that we might see a transformation in the coming four to eight years.
One of the richest US administration in the history
After all, both Melania and Ivanka Trump are former models, and the family is brimming with wealth. As are Trump’s cabinet picks. According to Bloomberg’s estimates (based on public disclosures and market performance), the combined net worth of Mr. Trump’s cabinet is $6.1 billion, with two of his appointees — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Jr. and Linda McMahon, who runs the Small Business Administration — worth a combined $4.1 billion. Moreover, there is education secretary Betsy DeVos, worth $890 million; the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, with an estimated $621 million net worth; Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, at $25.6 million; and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who is reportedly worth $385 million. More importantly, with an increasing interest in luxury goods, those traveling to Washington D.C for business might be more inclined to stop for a shopping spree.
There is reason to believe that luxury spending may go up significantly, as the Trump administration seems to be attracting the eye of businesses across the country, with private donations raising a combined $90 million, while total costs were estimated at between $175-200 million for Mr. Trump’s inaugural celebrations, nearly doubling the previous record.
An inspiring leader for American fashion
The importance of fashion has been largely neglected by the White House, and while many First Ladies showed an aptitude for making stylish clothing choices and a keen eye for luxury goods, it wasn’t until Michelle Obama that the relationship between the trillion-dollar industry and politics was brought to the spotlight. Mrs. Obama transformed the art of dressing by making statements with her dress choices. She regularly chose young, unknown American designers to dress her for red carpet events, ushering them to overnight fame. The Trump ladies, used to dressing in opulent (European) designer brands, could play a different, but no less important role. They could bring back fashion as an art form. In the first 100 days, we’ve seen unprecedented attention to the First Lady and the First Daughter’s dress choices. Surely, part of that attention was aimed at their role as pioneers for American design, but mostly, these were testaments to the glamour and splendor of their style. The first family affects the city’s ethos, and this time it can inspire to move a step closer to fashion capital New York, incidentally also the Trump family’s home.
The First Lady of the United States must be many things: an inspiring leader with a forward-thinking agenda of her own; a savvy politician, skilled at navigating the treacherous rapids of Washington; a wife and mother operating under constant scrutiny; and an able CEO responsible for the smooth operation of countless services and special events at the White House.
While fashion is very often underestimated as a serious source of revenue, the luxury goods industry is worth an astonishing $358 billion dollars in the US, while the industry makes up 3 percent of European GDP. Audrey Azoulay, French Minister of Culture, told the Associated Press outside the Chloe show in Paris that a "populist power" like the National Front, which wants France to exit the EU, would be "absolutely incompatible with the idea of fashion and freedom," posing a significant problem for the industry, and by extension also for the country.
Trump plans border-adjustment tax
Luxury goods manufacturing is a global process. Components of a product are often made in different parts of the world, depending on who offers the most competitive prices, and ultimately imported into the country to be sold to (American) consumers.
According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association, in 2014 the US imported 97.5 percent of its clothes. Despite efforts to keep fashion production in the US, many small brands and retail giants continue to turn to overseas manufacturing in countries like China and India due to the lower production costs.
Even Trump has a history of outsourcing items for his clothing line "Donald J. Trump Collection" from sport coats to cufflinks that were made in countries like South Korea and Bangladesh. “I know that doesn’t make it any easier for people whose jobs have been outsourced overseas, but if a company’s only means of survival is by farming jobs outside its walls, then sometimes it’s a necessary step. The other option might be to close its doors for good,” Trump wrote in the post.
However, Trump has suggested a border-adjustment tax that would eliminate tax breaks for American companies that produce overseas. As Thomas Nakios explains in The New York Times, should the tax reform be passed, designers will be faced with three options: close their store, pay more to produce domestically, or push the extra cost onto consumers, with the latter being most likely.
Since the inauguration, the First Lady has opted for a mix of European and American design (most recently wearing Hervé Pierre, a French immigrant, during the Easter Egg Roll on Sunday April 16th), proving once again that luxury goods know no borders.
(Original version: Povratak mode u Washington D.C.?)