Why Chinese people won't boycott Trump fashion

A model walks in front of the audience at a Taoray Wang show. Left-right: Marla Maples, Tiffany Trump, Ross Mechanic and others. February 11, 2017 in New York City, USA. Image copyright Magnum Photos
Image caption Shunned by some at New York Fashion Week, Ms Trump was welcome at Tao Wang's show

In a week that saw a political storm after Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump fashion lines and reports in the US media that her younger sister Tiffany Trump was "shunned" at New York Fashion Week, there was one unlikely win for the first family.

Headlines like "Tiffany Trump is having an awkward time at New York Fashion Week" only served as a reminder that several high-profile designers have been very public in their boycott of the Trump family.

But at Chinese designer Tao Wang's show, Tiffany Trump - US President Donald Trump's youngest daughter - took pride of place in the front row.

People in China sat up and took notice and revelled in the attention they paid to a rare example of a home grown designer. The moral and ethical quandaries front and centre for other designers were simply not an issue.

Ms Trump became a fan of Tao Wang's brand, Taoray Wang, after she first hit the New York catwalks in 2016.

"I think Tao's aesthetic is just unparalleled. She puts so much effort into the slightest detail," Ms Trump told The Hollywood Report.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It might seem like an unlikely friendship given the views of Mr Trump on China

And at her father's inauguration Taoray Wang's all-white coat and dress was Tiffany's suit of choice - said to cost $2,500-$3,700 (£2005-£2967).

She also wore Taoray Wang during her father's election campaign.

"I have to be honest, I feel very proud and grateful that she chose Taoray Wang for the inauguration," the 49-year old designer Tao told W magazine.

She is one designer who has decided that the controversy surrounding the US president should not extend to his daughter. For her, there are clearly other factors at stake, which resonate with many Chinese aware that the creative industries in their country need as much support as they can get.

"I co-operate with international celebrities and all these leaders," she told AFP.

And this particular relationship seems to be a close one. Ms Tao said she valued Ms Trump as a wonderful young lady who is very warm and down-to-earth, as well as generous and full of encouragement. Tiffany Trump for her part said they talk a lot and work closely together.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Happier times for Ivanka Trump (left) at a 2011 Nordstrom footwear launch, alongside her half-sister Tiffany

Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump's line from its outlets citing poor sales but a parallel Twitter campaign encouraging consumers to boycott Trump fashion has left many social media users in China unmoved.

For them a global stage for a Chinese designer became more important than the escalating row over the ethics of buying goods that might endorse a controversial president.

In China, Mr Trump is certainly a notorious figure and his Twitter outbursts have ranged from Taiwan, economic policy and trade to security issues in the South China Sea.

Yet Tiffany Trump choosing Wang has even been greeted with a touch of gratitude. On Weibo, Chinese netizens said Wang "showcases how excellent Chinese designers are".

"It shows broad and profound Chinese culture."

It's about nationalism and showcasing Chinese innovation and creativity. It's also about good business.

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Media captionGiant inflatable roosters with Trump-like features are on sale in China

Chinese manufacturers are producing Trump-related products. Trump flags, Trump masks, Trump T-shirts are selling everywhere on Taobao, China's top e-commerce website.

Caile Inflatable Products Company, located in Zhejiang province, was busy making inflatable chicken balloons with the likeness to Mr Trump ahead of Chinese New Year, beginning the year of the rooster.

Wei Qing, the factory manager, told the BBC: "We are businessmen. Of course, we would like to think positively about Trump's influence on China. If these Trump chicken balloons can boost our business or even global economy, it would be fantastic."

"Chinese people's attitudes towards Trump is dependent on their own advancement," he said.

"If he said something that would have a negative effect, Chinese people would dislike him," Jia Xiudong, senior research fellow at the China Institute of international studies in Beijing, told the BBC.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Trump history of sexist comments has not gone down well with Chinese feminists

But Chinese feminists have continued to speak out against Trump - they think they have a hard enough job with sexual discrimination and male chauvinism in China.

Zheng Churan, one of China's most prominent women's rights activists even gave him the label of "straight man cancer", a term referring male chauvinism. She sent an open letter to Mr Trump last December, saying feminists are watching him.

Last month, several dozen Chinese feminists joined the Women's March in Washington, holding slogans like "Nasty Chinese women say NO", "We demand feminist world leaders", and "Sexism is a disease. Feminism is your cure".

But many of those social media users on Weibo see it a different way. Tiffany Trump's endorsement of Tao Wang is a chance to showcase a Chinese woman trumpeting her own creative business on the global stage. And many see that as a kind of triumph.