She could be living her life as just another tall, thin, pretty blond with a famous last name and few accomplishments. But Ivanka Trump, at 28, works hard to prove herself an astute businesswoman and creative designer. True, she did take up modeling at age 15 (following in her mother Ivana’s footsteps) and has landed on and between the covers of such diverse magazines as Seventeen, Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar and Stuff, where the polite terminology for how women are presented is scantily clad.
But Donald Trump’s daughter also graduated summa cum laude from the prestigious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s a high-level executive in her father’s real estate empire, for which she travels to places as far-flung as Dubai and Waikiki, and she heads her own expanding fine jewelry business, with a boutique on Madison Avenue and retail outlets that include London Jewelers on Long Island. Last year, she wrote a best-selling book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life. In it, she wrote, “The message I put out to people who are prepared to write me off before even meeting with me: Get over it.” Though she admits she has advantages others don’t, “I still had to run the distance. I still had to go to school, learn the basics, develop my own style, make and support my own decisions, and on and on.”
Despite the occasional flashes of skin in photographs, often timed to promote her business interests, and the intermittent television appearances—chatting with Jay Leno and David Letterman, guesting as a Project Runway judge and, most frequently, acting as her dad’s sidekick on The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice—she has generally been guarded about exposing her personal life. Unless it helps promote her “brand,” a knack that seems to run in her family. Last October, after converting from Catholicism to Judaism, she married Jared Kushner, another real estate scion and the youthful owner of the New York Observer. Not only was the Orthodox Jewish wedding held at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, with 500 guests, but the bride wore scads of diamonds from the Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry Collection—$130,000 earrings, $90,000 bracelet—and so did her bridesmaids, as People magazine reported. In her interview with Long Island Pulse, Trump was thoughtful, thorough and unafraid to blow her own horn.
You’re a very busy person. How do you balance your work as executive vice president in The Trump Organization with your work in your own jewelry company? Which is the dominant one? Every day’s schedule is different for me. I generally wake up, exercise and read through a copious amount of newspapers. I arrive at the office somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00am—my brothers and I are always the first ones in. My days are often filled with a large volume of meetings—everything from hotel design to building management to jewelry initiatives to new deal development to marketing strategy. I try to stick to a very strict schedule and I am never late—this is something that I learned from my father. I also try to schedule some time between those meetings to return phone calls and emails, as I think that it is very important to respond to direct correspondence in a timely manner. My main focus will continue to be on expanding the Trump brand globally through real estate and hotel ventures. Additionally, I would like to continue to grow my personal brand in a wide variety of luxury lifestyle businesses including the fine jewelry line and a footwear and handbag line launching next year.
How do you add in your taping of The Apprentice TV show and then a private life as well? It gets hectic. I use a well organized planner. We tape The Apprentice on a couple of select days during the week so I’m able to organize all my business meetings and appointments around the taping.
You’ve often talked about promoting “the brand.” What does that mean to you, and how do you define the Trump brand? As Executive Vice President of Development & Acquisitions of The Trump Organization, I’m charged with the domestic and global expansion of The Trump Organization’s real estate interests. Along with my father and my siblings, Donald Jr. and Eric, I direct all aspects of the company’s real estate and hotel management platforms. Since joining The Trump Organization in 2005, my primary focus has been to bring the Trump Hotel Collection brand to global markets. I founded the Trump Hotel Collection with my brothers in 2007. The Trump brand is a lifestyle brand. I believe in promoting it as a brand that can be accessed by my aspiring consumers in all different stages of their lives: owning a pair of shoes and a handbag from the Ivanka Trump Footwear and Handbag line, investing in an important piece of jewelry from the Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry Collection, staying at a Trump Hotel Collection property, playing golf at Trump Golf Course and eventually purchasing a Trump condominium.
You wrote in your book that your parents wanted you and your brothers to exceed expectations and that you were bred to be competitive. How does that manifest itself in your day-to-day life, and in your relationship with your brothers? My parents always taught us that hard work never goes out of style. My upbringing has prepared me for a challenging career that requires ambition, a strong work ethic and determination. I wake up every day with a focused, organized plan to meet all my professional, personal and lifestyle goals—that is the invaluable lesson my parents taught my brothers and me.
What drew you to designing jewelry, and where is the business heading? My mother’s Legacy Jewelry collection always inspired me. And my love for the classic aesthetic helped propel my vision. I realized the luxury fine jewelry market was missing a fresh, young design approach. We are currently expanding nationally in important markets such as New York City, Long Island, Greenwich, Chicago, Florida markets, Houston, Dallas, Denver, California markets and the Caribbean. We are also expanding the collection on a global level in the Middle East and the Hong Kong/China region. We will be launching through 40 doors via exclusive retail partnerships by spring of 2011. I am deeply committed to the success of the retail partners—their success is my success. On July 1, we launched at the East Hampton location of London Jewelers. Their customer is aligned with my own target audience: a smart, sophisticated modern woman who appreciates quality and craftsmanship.
Can you define a little more the customer your jewelry appeals to? I wanted to design jewelry for the modern, sophisticated, self-purchasing woman of today. I wanted women to see the jewelry and be able to buy themselves an important piece of jewelry right away—without asking “him.” My audience is a woman who knows exactly what she wants and a woman who is not afraid to express herself through jewelry.
How is the new collection you launched in March different from the earlier “classic” collection? Do you have favorite pieces? My new collection was based on approachable, wearable designs. They’re designs you can wear from the office and the boardroom to a dinner out with friends, a black-tie gala or a beach wedding. My favorite pieces are the signature ovals, the tassels and the rose gold collection.
I’ve read that you’re involved in philanthropic endeavors. What are they? I was recently tapped to be a spokesperson for the UN Foundation’s Girl Up initiative, a campaign to recruit young women to support UN programs for girls in developing countries. I am partnering with social activists such as Elizabeth Gore and Queen Rania of Jordan with the Girl Up campaign in hopes to bring awareness and career skills to young women around the world. I am also involved with several other charitable organizations, including the Eric Trump Foundation [founded by Ivanka’s brother and others to help children battling life-threatening or debilitating medical conditions] and the New York City Police Foundation.
How much time do you spend with you father, and how do you interact? I work with my father every day.
You have really taken to Twitter. What do you like about it? I have over 800,000 followers on Twitter. I think social media is the most engaging way of interacting with fans and consumers.
Have you spent much time on Long Island? Do you visit people or only come for business? I often come out to the Hamptons with friends.
Are you still traveling a lot for your real estate projects and your jewelry business? If so, where are you heading next? Travel is part of my role at Trump Org and the Fine Jewelry line. I am heading to Europe and the Middle East next.
What’s next for you in general—business or personal or anything else? I see myself evolving and growing in my real estate role at the Trump Org and continuing to develop my jewelry business. I will also be adding extensions to my lifestyle brand with handbags and shoes. My footwear and handbag lines will be launching in spring 2011.