YOU probably didn't notice, what with all the excitement about the return of "Project Runway," the release of a survey by a marketing company last week noting that Donald J. Trump had beat out Giorgio Armani and Donna Karan as one of the most trusted fashion names in America. That's right: Donald Trump, the real estate mogul, television star, hair aesthete and confessed "germ freak." Even the editors of Women's Wear Daily seemed to be in a state of disbelief, since their report of the news was buried on the inside.
It couldn't be true. Mr. Armani has worked his fingers to the bone to be a world-renowned designer; spent a fortune advancing the idea too. And what about Valentino, Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and those boys - what are their names? - Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana? They don't even make the list. Shut out of America. Ignored. Trumped. It's true.
The Donald J. Trump collection of suits, ties and dress shirts has been available for the last year at Macy's and other Federated department stores, a couple of hundred outlets in all. Terry J. Lundgren, the chief executive of Federated, has characterized the Trump apparel business as "an unbelievable runaway success." Mr. Trump doesn't design the clothes, he doesn't make them, and he doesn't spend a dime to promote them. And unlike most designers, he doesn't expend any effort trying to convince the American public that a billionaire, the keeper of Mar-a-Lago, the defender of capitalist culture, would dump his $5,000 Brioni suits in favor of his own $495 make. He wears his suits, which are produced for a royalty by a firm called Marcraft, but he also wears the other.
"I like Brioni; they treat me fantastically," Mr. Trump said last Friday from Florida, where he was watching a women's golf tournament at one of his clubs.
He may have been surprised himself to learn that he had done in a year of light lifting what has taken Ralph Lauren nearly 40 years to accomplish. That is, according to the survey, by Brand Keys, a marketing company in New York, his brand is seen as having the qualities that consumers most desire in clothes, namely comfort, style and fit. Brand Keys asked 500 adults, chosen from the nine census regions, to rate a total of 1,200 brands, ranging from banks and fast-food chains to apparel and consumer electronics.
Out of 50 fashion brands, however, only five ranked in the top category, called Human Brands, which simply meant that whether you hailed from a red state or a blue one, said "tomato" or "tumaytuh," you recognized values beyond the commoditized subsoil of price. The five were Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Isaac Mizrahi, Victoria's Secret and, of course, Donald Trump.
A number of designer labels fell into a next-best category, called 21st-Century Brands, which suggested that names like Prada, Armani and Versace also resonated with consumers but without the same degree of meaning as the Human types. The inclusion in a third, more lowly category, Label, of Anne Klein, Bill Blass and Calvin Klein points up the staying power of a name long after the company's founder has died or retired and its product has struggled to be relevant.
Tags: man fashion, Donald J. Trump, Giorgio Armani, Donna Karen,television star, human brands, 21st century brands, Label brands