On Jan. 11, not quite a year after Donald and Melania Trump left the White House and less than a week after the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol that took place in his name, four years or so after putting her trademarks on ice and shuttering her QVC jewelry line and her skin-care line, Melania Trump returned to the public eye with a new kind of personal brand and a new kind of merch to go with.
The vehicle: a 14-day auction on melaniatrump.com of three pieces that comprise what is called the Head of State Collection.
The name is presumably a wink-wink-nudge-nudge reference to the star lot: what the website describes as an “iconic broad-brimmed, one-of-a-kind hat” originally worn by Mrs. Trump in 2018 during the state visit of the French president. Emmanuel Macron, and his wife, Brigitte, and signed by Mrs. Trump. (Also on the block: a 2021 watercolor by the French artist Marc-Antoine Coulon of Mrs. Trump in said hat, signed by the artist and subject, and a nonfungible tokens, or NFT, of the artwork.) The opening bid was set at approximately $250,000 for the group.
The auction follows the sale in December of a group of limited-edition NFTs made of a watercolor of Mrs. Trump’s eyes, also by Mr. Coulon and entitled “Melania’s Vision,” which sold for $150 apiece. And it will be followed, according to the original announcement, by more such presumably Mrs. Trump-inspired NFTs.
According to the website, “a portion of the proceeds derived from this auction” will go to charitable initiatives supported by Mrs. Trump’s Be Best initiative, though it doesn’t specify how much or where the remaining proceeds will go. (Emails to her office requesting specific information were not returned.)
And thus is fulfilled the promise first revealed in the 2017 libel suit in which Mrs. Trump had sued the website of The Daily Mail for slander, claiming an article it published had harmed her marketability and thus impinged potential plans to “launch a broad-based commercial line in multiple product categories.” Including, perhaps, “apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance.” (The suit was settled, with the Daily Mail apologizing and paying damages.)
At the time, the suggestion that Mrs. Trump might monetize her time in the White House, and the public eye, was dismissed by her team. “The first lady has no intention of using her position for profit and will not do so,” her lawyer, Charles Harder, said in a statement. “It is not a possibility.” That statement, seemingly, has limits.