AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
First daughter Ivanka Trump is shutting down her namesake fashion brand. It's been in the spotlight ever since her father got elected to the White House. Ivanka Trump moved to Washington in early 2017. She became a top presidential adviser. And that's when she stepped down from managing the company, but she still owns it. NPR's Alina Selyukh is here to talk us through this story of shoes, purses and potential conflicts of interest. Hey there, Alina (laughter).
ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Hi.
CORNISH: So exactly what did this announcement say?
SELYUKH: Right. So Ivanka Trump says she's shutting down her fashion brand. She says 17 months in the Capitol has passed. She's not sure when or if she'll be able to go back to running the business. So she's choosing to focus on her work in Washington, and it's only fair to her team and to her partners to wind down the company. They're essentially going to work through whatever is being sold in department stores and online, and that's going to be it.
CORNISH: Do we know how business has been since Ivanka Trump joined her father as a White House adviser?
SELYUKH: The company is private, so we don't have much detail. When President Trump took office, he and his family made this controversial decision. They stepped down from managing their business, as you were saying, but they continue to profit from whatever's profitable. And they put their financial interests into trusts.
For example, President Trump himself put his big Trump organization into a trust. That's the company that deals with the hotels and the golf courses and the infamous Mar-a-Lago resort that the president calls the winter White House. And so that's what Ivanka Trump did with her fashion brand. She put it into a trust, so she doesn't run it but still owns it. And what we do know is that during her first year in the White House, Ivanka Trump made more than $5 million from the trust that controls her brand.
CORNISH: We know that the Trump family businesses have been under scrutiny from ethics experts - right? - all of these months. Was this considered a conflict of interest?
SELYUKH: Well, her brand has definitely gotten a lot of side-eye from ethics experts. And it was one thing during the campaign when Ivanka herself, for example, promoted the dress she wore during the Republican convention. But then the rules really change when you become a White House official, and her brand slipped up in the early days and made a big marketing push for a bracelet worth almost $11,000 after Ivanka wore it on the CBS "60 Minutes."
You know, fashion bloggers and watchers often jump all over whatever outfit a White House official wears or actually is worn by the first family especially. And in this case - in Ivanka's case, that's her own brand that she profits from. And then there was the big incident early last year when Nordstrom pulled Ivanka Trump products off the shelves. They cited poor sales. President Trump himself tweeted that his daughter was being treated unfairly. And then another government official, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, went on Fox News and basically advertised Ivanka Trump's brand.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
KELLYANNE CONWAY: It's a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully - I'm going to just give it - I'm going to give a...
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: OK (laughter).
CONWAY: ...Free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Laughter) All right.
CONWAY: You can find it online
SELYUKH: The Office of Government Ethics at the time recommended an investigation, possible disciplinary action against Conway. But the White House said Conway was, quote, "counseled, and the remark was inadvertent."
CORNISH: Did these concerns actually play into the decision to wind down the business?
SELYUKH: The company now does say that both the fact that Ivanka was no longer managing the brand and all the various restrictions that come with being owned by a White House employee - all this did limit the brand's ability to grow. But the company says the decision to shut down the brand had nothing to do with performance and everything to do with Ivanka's decision to stay in Washington indefinitely.
CORNISH: And what's next for Ivanka Trump?
SELYUKH: Well, you know, she's a White House adviser. (Laughter) She has her plate full. She regularly travels, representing the White House. She's taken on a few policy initiatives. Lately, she's been encouraging companies to hire American and is promoting her plan for a new national, paid, family leave policy.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Alina Selyukh. Thank you.
SELYUKH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.