Selling Melania Trump, one NFT at a time

On January 11, not quite a year after Donald and Melania Trump left the White House and less than a week after the anniversary of the Capitol bombing that took place in his name, about four years after he left the White House. Putting her brands on ice and shutting down her QVC jewelry line and skin care line, Melania Trump has returned to the public eye with a new kind of personal brand and a new kind of merchandise.

The vehicle: a 14-day auction on melaniatrump.com of three pieces that make up what is called the Head of State Collection.

The name is presumably a nod to the star lot: what the website describes as an “iconic wide-brimmed, one-of-a-kind hat” originally worn by Melania Trump in 2018 during her visit to Statement of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte and signed by Trump. (Also on the block: a 2021 watercolor by French artist Marc-Antoine Coulon of Trump in said hat, signed by artist and subject, and a non-fungible token, or NFT, of the artwork. ) The opening bid was set at approximately $ 250,000 for the group.

The auction follows the December sale of a limited-edition NFT group of a watercolor of Trump’s eyes, also by Coulon, titled “Melania’s Vision,” which sold for $ 150 apiece. And it will be followed, according to the original announcement, by other NFTs presumably inspired by Trump.

According to the website, “a portion of the proceeds from this auction” will go to charitable initiatives supported by Trump’s Be Best initiative, although it does not specify how much or where the remaining proceeds will go. (Emails to his office requesting specific information were not returned.)

And so is fulfilled the promise first revealed in Trump’s 2017 libel lawsuit against the Daily Mail website, claiming that an article he published damaged its market value and thus hampered potential plans. to “launch a wide commercial range in several product categories”. Including, perhaps, “clothing, accessories, footwear, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care, and perfumes.” (The lawsuit was settled, with the Daily Mail apologizing and paying damages.)

At the time, the suggestion that Trump could monetize his time in the White House and in the public eye was rejected by his team. “The first lady does not intend to use her position for profit and will not do so,” her lawyer, Charles Harder, said in a statement. “It’s not a possibility.” This statement, apparently, has limits.

While what is being sold isn’t exactly the clothing line many have been waiting for, or even a perfume, Trump’s new approach to the product is nonetheless both familiar and revealing: breaking standards, and seemingly ruled by rules. that are specific to it.

After all, while former First Ladies have traditionally made money from memoirs of their experiences or speeches (also, in the case of the Obamas, from documentaries and podcasts), it is quite unheard of for them to earn money by selling a relic of this experience.

“I think it’s unprecedented in modern times,” said Kate Andersen Brower, author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies,” of the Head of State’s sale. “In general, it’s not considered a thing to do. “

Traditionally, when an item of clothing is worn by a first lady on a state occasion, it is donated to the National Archives or a museum such as the Smithsonian as it is considered part of the historical record, with a value of soft power which is impossible to quantify.

Indeed, according to Trump’s website, the reason she launched her new business with the hat off is the importance of the French state visit. “Ms. Trump recognized this momentous moment for the country and therefore great attention was paid to the planning,” he explains. This planning included ordering a unique hat made in New York to match. to a Michael Kors suit that Trump had planned to wear.

Of course, the hat made observers scratch their heads from the get-go. By shading her face almost completely, while still being impossible to miss, it represented the first lady’s famous ambivalence towards her role; by appropriating the cultural tropes of the nice guy (the white hat), it also teased the public’s obsession with searching her clothes for clues to her relationship with her husband. For many, it contained multitudes.

Especially because it turned out to be the first in a series of controversial hats Trump would wear throughout his tenure as first lady. There was the pith helmet she modeled on a safari in Kenya and a cream fedora she wore while posing in front of the sphinx in Egypt, both of which drew unfortunate comparisons with the colonialists and seemed to reflect how point Trump saw his position as just a role play.

Selling the hat, which was created by Hervé Pierre, the French-born New York designer turned stylist who was the closest thing to a fashion collaborator she had during her time at the White House ( he made her inaugural ball gown), Trump seems to be shedding the rubbish of his White House years one piece at a time as an irritating memory.

And she does it in a way that ensures that this piece of history, at least, belongs to only one person. This is the antithesis of the idea that a first lady should represent the nation at large, but is very much in line with the Trump worldview and approach to their role, which has seen members of the the family use the president’s position in the White House to benefit their hotels and golf courses, their potential future business ventures. Why should it end just because they are no longer in office?

As always with Melania Trump, it’s hard to know what exactly she is thinking, as she doesn’t say much, just like she didn’t say much during her time in Washington. Instead, it often seemed like she let her outfits do the talking for her. This is another reason why these outfits were so important. They were the Rosetta Stone of his tenure in the East Wing, apparently being lost to the private market; disappear into the metaverse.

As a result, it’s hard not to wonder what might happen next. The towering Manolo Blahnik stilettos that she wore when embarking on a trip with her husband to the scene of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas with a close-up of her ankles? The “I really don’t care, do I?” »Jacket she wore to visit immigrant children who had been separated from their parents at the border with a silhouette on the back? The pink bow-tie blouse she wore during a debate after the “Access Hollywood” ribbon scandal with a sketch of her neck? A lock of her famous flowing hair?

Either way, the idea seems to be to sell yourself as a muse. From the White House to your home, with just a crypto cash register in between.