Tiffany Trump is no stranger to Fashion Week. The 23-year-old has been going to shows since at least 1995 when she attended one in New York with her mother, Marla Maples, and Donald Trump, who had not yet divorced. Since then, she’s occasionally spotted at shows ranging from Project Runway to Mara Hoffman, but definitely not at the same frequency (nor status) as her older sister, Ivanka Trump. This Fashion Week, Tiffany attended four minor shows, received an avalanche of positive press, and was embroiled in a public controversy where she came out on top. It’s an unlikely Cinderella story for anyone from the Trump family, especially in what’s been a tumultuous first month of the new administration. But Tiffany’s Fashion Week experience is a sign of how being the president’s second-banana of a daughter can ultimately play to her advantage. For Tiffany, it’s shaping up to be a good thing. Tiffany made appearances at Taoray Wang, Dennis Basso, Philipp Plein, and Vivienne Tam — none of which are particularly relevant shows on the Fashion Week roster. But, all received a marked increase in coverage with Tiffany’s appearance, and had the opportunity to shower her in accolades. “I met Tiffany in September [of 2016],” designer Taoray Wang told Refinery29. “She is absolutely a wonderful young lady. She’s very warm and down to earth. She’s very generous to give others encouragement.” Designer Anne Bowen of Nomad VII shared a similar story: “We were told Trump wasn’t even going to win. I said, 'Tiffany, what if he wins? You may need something [for the inauguration].' By the time it was done, he had won.” Wang isn't her only fan in fashion. “She’s a lovely girl. I’ve known her since she was a baby,” Dennis Basso, a fur and evening wear designer, told Fashion Week Daily. Unlike her other adult siblings, Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr., Tiffany Trump has played a less prominent role during her father’s campaign. Her mother, Marla Maples, was married to Donald Trump for six years, and acknowledged that she and Tiffany have had little interaction with him until they were asked to join his presidential campaign late in the cycle. Donald himself insinuated that he holds Tiffany in less regard compared to his other children: “I’m very proud of my children,” he said on a panel on Fox and Friends. “Don and Eric and Ivanka and — you know, to a lesser extent, because she just got out of school, out of college, but Tiffany, who has also been so terrific.” He didn’t start following Tiffany on Twitter until after she gave a speech endorsing her father at the Republican National Convention. All of this paints a picture of Tiffany as the innocent bystander — her ties to President Trump are cast as purely familial, not ideological. This, coupled with her interest in fashion, makes her an attractive candidate to fashion designers who want to appeal to Trump voters without repelling liberal consumers in the process.
And indeed, politics is largely absent from Tiffany’s Twitter account. Unlike Ivanka’s or Melania’s, her feed is largely comprised of photos of herself and her family, with captions that are totally, captivatingly neutral — “What an amazing evening! Thank you for all your support! Looking forward to today,” she wrote on Instagram the evening before the inauguration. Along with an American flag, Tiffany also included a link to designer Anne Bowen, whose dress she wore to the dinner. “She’s a millennial, she doesn’t speak policy, she’s going to law school. I thought it’s the right thing to do,” Bowen told Refinery29. “She needs a little bit of oomph out there. Melania or Ivanka have a glam squad. They’re taken care of, they don’t need me. Tiffany doesn’t have that.” Tiffany seems to have been establishing relationships with several under-the-radar designers since Trump first announced his run for president; her charm (and designers' appreciation for her ability to draw attention) has resulted in many more press mentions, ranging from neutral to positive. And then there’s the matter of Seatgate. At the Philipp Plein show, media outlets like Daily Mail reported that fashion editors from top publications were “bullying” Tiffany by not sitting next to her. But a Refinery29 report found that while some editors did request to change seats, they claimed it was largely because of the huge swell of paparazzi and aggressive Secret Service; they didn’t want to be photographed at 10 p.m. in less-than-flattering environments. Nevertheless, reporters who tweeted from the show observing that other editors (not themselves) were requesting to swap seats were hounded on social media for being bullies. “I’ve never had in 10 years of covering fashion shows — I’ve never seen people get out of their seat because they had strong political feelings of someone seated near them,” said author Christina Binkley. A veteran critic of NYFW who reports on designer collections as well as the attendance and reception of the shows themselves, she's now being attacked online by people defending Tiffany. “It’s pretty ugly, and some of it’s threatening. It’s mainly been Twitter, but people are starting to email me.”
Other editors, like Nikki Ogunnaike from Elle, have been forced to set their Twitter accounts to private after being called racist slurs and receiving death threats. Whatever really happened, the vocal point of view online is that fashion's liberal mean girls bullied Tiffany by refusing to sit next to her. It garnered enough attention that Whoopi Goldberg brought up the matter on The View: “Nobody’s talking politics,” said Whoopi. “You’re looking at fashion. She doesn’t want to talk about her dad.” In any other year, Whoopi might be right. But this season, everybody at Fashion Week is talking politics. In fact, the biggest trend this season is the prevalence, ubiquity, and intensity of political messages on the runway, and the activism of the attendees. The CFDA — the non-profit group that organizes the New York Fashion Week calendar — even put together an official pink pin campaign to support Planned Parenthood, one of the women’s reproductive institutions that President Trump is threatening to defund. “Designers have taken a stand this week about things they believe in. But people were not invoking the T-word until [the Philipp Plein show],” says Binkley. Along with Tiffany Trump’s front-row presence, Plein riffed on Trump’s "Make America Great Again" slogan in a confusing spectacle of a show involving Hot Felon Jeremy Meeks, the Times Square Naked Cowboy, and women dressed as Statues of Liberty. But the designers who invited Tiffany, or accepted her invitation requests, insist that having a Trump present is not a political act nor an endorsement of President Trump’s politics. “I’m not a politician at all,” claimed Wang. “I’m not a political activist,” said Bowen. "I don’t want to talk about politics. I’m a fashion designer," said Vivienne Tam. “I’m not a politician,” Phillip Plein told TMZ. Neither is Tiffany — but it’s also important to note that she also is not a fashion editor, a beloved public figure, nor a style influencer with high selling potential (though that may change after this Fashion Week). The purpose of Tiffany’s attendance, if not to reinforce a brand’s mission or political leanings, seems like a pure press play.