A peek inside both the designer's impressive jewelry box and her peer-to-peer business acumen.
Welcome to MDJ Insider, a recurring column in which ELLE Accessories Director Maria Dueñas Jacobs peeks inside our favorite tastemakers' jewelry boxes to discover the pieces that inspire—and accessorize—their extraordinary lives.
It's not every day that you sit across from a woman who is as intelligent as she is strikingly beautiful. Ivanka Trump is one of these unicorns. She is perfectly poised, sharply articulate, and in possession of a radiant beauty that tempts you to stare. She also has an enviable résumé that boasts accolades from both the fashion and real estate industries. And her professional ethos is equally clever: She empowers working women while also converting them into Ivanka Trump consumers. Trump's growing brand includes clothing, footwear, handbags, eyewear, and fragrance. But as her aficionados know, the very first collection she ever designed was for her eponymous fine jewelry collection. On the day we meet in her office to check out a few of her favorite—and most meaningful pieces—she fastidiously lays out stunner after stunner before thoughtfully pausing on a decadent diamond collar. Game on.
These are some gorgeous heirlooms. Tell me a bit about their significance.
[On the left] is a piece my mother gave me for my 21st birthday. It was a gift that my father had given her for some sort of major milestone in their marriage. It was special to her, and obviously special to me, and very beautiful. I treasure it and still wear it as often as I can to black tie occasions.
It's incredible. Did you expect that you would receive it?
Oh no! Absolutely not. That's a pretty major 21st birthday gift [laughs]. Normally I borrow these types of items from her. So it was really amazing and special. [Moves throughout the collection] These two pieces I love, but they are actually not from my collection. A friend gave them to me. They have become a gift that I give to new moms. I typically put the kid's name on the bracelet and, on the ends of the second bracelet, the couple's initials.
This is my engagement ring. My husband actually designed it with one of the designers on my team. I love the very delicate setting, and I wanted the band to be as thin as possible. These [pearl] earrings were a gift from my husband when my son Joseph was born. He is very sweet—sometimes he'll give me a nice piece of jewelry and then he'll gift a piece for me to give to our daughter Arabella.
That's incredibly thoughtful! Do you wear some of your daughter's pieces "on loan" until she is old enough to claim them as her own?
Absolutely. I don't know if that was my husband's intention, but he thinks it's very cute when he sees me wearing her necklace. I figure giving it a little test run is better than having it sit in the jewelry box waiting for another decade!
Now that you have a daughter, do you tend to rationalize purchases with the thought of passing them down in the future?
It's interesting, but because I have my own collection, I actually almost never purchase jewelry unless it's sort of playful, whimsical pieces that are more fashion, a little less investment-oriented. Most of my personal jewelry collection is from my own collection. The pieces that get layered in tend to be gifts from my husband. He has a very good eye for vintage. He finds beautiful pieces that are always very classic and great.
Tell me more about your Ivanka Trump line. From where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
I naturally gravitate toward world-renowned architects and, perhaps more obviously, exciting real estate projects. Real estate is still a major focus of mine. Traveling has definitely also been a big influence. Whether it's color palettes for my apparel collection or materials for handbags and shoes or inspiration for fine jewelry, traveling expands your mind and opens you up to different things you haven't seen before. And then…photographs that my mother sends me of her friends' wrists [laughs]. I'll get text messages from her saying, 'Isn't this beautiful? You should do something like this.' She's always fueling and inspiring me. She's the greatest.
She sounds like a big supporter and she's quite the jewelry collector herself correct?
Absolutely. I had early exposure to the best. I actually think it's one of the reasons why, even when we were just getting started, the craftsmanship of each of the pieces was incredibly important to me. For example this bracelet [holding one of her Ivanka Trump cuffs] is one you could wear every day of your life, but the intricacy and detailing are not lost. I think true luxury and true quality is focusing on the details that other people don't see.
You have numerous collections, but you started with jewelry. How did it all begin?
I started with jewelry when I was probably 24 years old. It was really just in response to a feeling that most of the fine jewelers were men appealing to men and selling pieces in a very unmodern way. I felt that there was a huge demographic of self-purchasing women who were feeling uncomfortable in the traditional retail environment. You know, you walk into one of these stores on 5th Avenue and it's a marble mausoleum with security everywhere. I found it to be sort of cold, stoic, and intimidating. I think that worked in the '80s, when you'd bully somebody into a purchase. But now there's a little thing called the Internet. People are no longer going to transact immediately just because they are intimidated by their environment.
Our store has a very feminine aesthetic. We know now that people aren't waiting until their birthdays or their anniversaries to treat themselves to a piece of jewelry. They're buying for themselves if they get a nice bonus, if they had a great milestone, or something great happens to them. I think we were really the first to speak to the woman directly and make her the focus.
When it comes to wearing jewelry, Are there any rules or tips that you want to share with ELLE readers?
I tend to focus on one statement piece—and that's across all accessories. I think it can be very distracting if you're trying to accomplish everything with one look. I tend to dress and accessorize toward simple and reserved but with a wink of fun. There are some areas of the world, and some areas in America, where people love full jewelry suites. That's never been something that I've gravitated toward but I will create special collections for people who like that. I tend to think, If you're wearing a big necklace, wear studs. My mother used to always tell me, 'Never leave the house without earrings on.' I break that one all the time [laughing].
It's amazing what you have built. You are really an inspiration to women. Your brand identity is so clear and your website is an incredible tool.
Thank you so much! The website has been really amazing. I look at it as an opportunity to put a stake in the ground in terms of what our brand stands for. I also use it as a vehicle to tell the stories of women who inspire not only me but everyone in this office and the next generation of working women. [These stories] help to move the narrative away from this caricature of how we look, how we dress, and how we view our lives. I often feel that when people try and speak to the professional woman their message comes across very polarizing. I wanted to create something that wasn't judgmental—that was purely a celebration of the fact that we represent 50% of a population.