As Donald Trump ranted about China devaluing currency and stealing American jobs at the U.S. presidential debate on Monday night, his daughter Tiffany Trump displayed a slightly more pro-globalization attitude—at least with her sartorial choice—as she watched from the audience in an outfit by a Chinese fashion designer.
Following the debate, fashion label Taoray Wang posted two photos on its Instagram showing Trump wearing one of its pieces to the debate, gushing in the caption that the young socialite was “radiating with confidence, elegance and grace,” and adding, “A great example of the young and outstanding female image of America winning unanimous admiration across China. We applause you!”
The fashion label is run by Beijing-born designer Wang Tao, who is descended from a Qing dynasty official and is called China’s “Queen of the Suit.” Her label Taoray Wang’s suits’ signature style features bright Chinese patterns sewn into the linings, and she sources her fabric in Europe while designing and producing her collections in China. Prior to debuting Taoray Wang at New York Fashion Week in 2014, she studied fashion in Japan and rose to prominence in China as the head designer of the clothing brand broadcast:bo (broadcast:播). She sits on the board of the Shanghai-based Ribo Zhimei Fashion Co., telling Chinese media last year that the New York Fashion Week participation helps attract investment for the group.
The nationality of the brands worn by politicians’ family members has been considered a political issue in both China and the United States. U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama’s choice of designer for state dinners is often heavily scrutinized for its diplomatic implications, such as her decision to wear Vera Wang for the 2015 state dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping. While Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan is notoriously secretive about which designers she’s wearing, she shows particular support for Chinese brands. The politically connected Chinese fashion label Exception gained a massive amount of attention when it publicized that she wore it (which it needed government permission to do).
Also focused on elite “power dressers,” Wang Tao has found a big fan in Tiffany Trump. The Republican presidential nominee’s daughter sat in the front row of the Taoray Wang New York Fashion Week show earlier in September and posed for a photo with fellow front-row guest Zhang Meifang, China’s deputy consul general for New York.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump complained about what “China is doing to our country” onstage at the debate Monday, through currency devaluation (which has been called inaccurate) and “stealing” jobs (which is considered out of date). He also speculated that recent DNC email hacks could have been from China and brazenly denied Hillary Clinton’s statement that he said that global warming is a concept created by China, prompting mass retweets of him making this claim on Twitter.
His criticism of companies for manufacturing in China and elsewhere abroad has caused critics to point out hypocrisy due to the fact that Trump-branded clothing and ties are produced in China and other countries. He’s previously lashed out at Boeing for taking orders from China, and once declared that he would never eat Oreos again in response to Nabisco opening a plant in Mexico. In addition to Trump’s clothing line, his daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion collection is exclusively made up of imported goods, with 354 items produced in China, according to a Harvard professor and trade expert’s analysis.
Trump also sees China’s wealthy as a source of big business and tends to brag about how much money he’s made selling property to Chinese buyers, which might be part of the reason his comments veer incoherently from China-bashing to intense admiration—he’s declared his “love” for China in the same interview in which he’s accused it of “ripping off” the United States. Even at the debate, he claimed China was the “best ever” at currency manipulation and went on a tangential rant about how its airports were better than New York’s. His deep foreign business ties have come under scrutiny recently over what experts say are obvious conflicts of interest with holding the office of the U.S. presidency.
While Tiffany Trump clearly has no problem with foreign brands (she also interned at an Italian fashion group in New York) her father’s positions on immigration have also been criticized by the fashion industry. Business of Fashion Founder and Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed wrote in a recent op-ed that Donald Trump should “remember that America is a country of immigrants, and the American fashion industry in particular is built on the work of immigrants and their offspring,” naming figures such as 3.1 Phillip Lim CEO Wen Zhou and designers Prabal Gurung and Thakoon Panichgul.
With more of a focus on fashion than politics, Tiffany Trump may not have had any of these issues in mind when she chose her outfit for the debate. But even inadvertently, wearing a Chinese designer certainly conveys an acceptance of a globalized world that Donald Trump speaks against. It also highlights the fact that despite his bluster about the dire state of the economy, the U.S. market is the place to be for many international designers.