Fashion + Feminism

Fashion: An industry for women built by men

So, a question to start with, what is your opinion on the Fashion Industry? Is it run by men or women, or equally both? This is a question I ask myself a lot. And, I think, in our postmodern society it is definitely something to ponder on.

What do the facts say?

Major executives in the industry are almost always men. In an interesting study by the Business of Fashion, they recorded that 14% of females held an executive role in 2015. To me this seems absurd, how can it be that the majority of people going into the industry are women. Yet, women are in the minority for getting the higher roles. Women have been fighting for decades to achieve equality. But, are subsequently being put aside for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on.

Women are more than often paid less than men, but why is this? Apparently there are many reasons to justify this thought process, the main point being ‘family’. As a result of women wanting to settle down and build a family in their early 30’s. Men do not have a motherly role and tend to progress quicker and earn more due to not taking maternity leave etc. However, in my view this doesn’t seem fair. Women should be able to return to their jobs and progress up the ladder just as quickly as men.

Vera Wang, a female leader in fashion

“Women take on many roles, and wear many hats. They’re wives, they’re mothers” – Vera Wang

Business of Fashion, 2016

This quote fascinates me. An inspirational woman like Vera Wang, who has proven women can run their own business and design a variation of collections. All while raising 2 children. Therefore, we can see that it is achievable, and us women can do it! Men may have their views on how much we can or can’t do, but this is wrong. We don’t hold stereotypical views on them, so why should they do it to us? In a powerful industry like fashion it is important for women to stand their ground, show confidence and not to let anyone hold them back.

Successful female designers

What a lot of men seem to forget, is that most designers, and founders of these huge designers were originally women. Firstly, Coco Chanel, who started Chanel in 1910, with the little black dress, A.K.A the LBD. This dress is an iconic piece that she is still known for to this day.

In 1983 Karl Lagerfeld continued her legacy with his haute couture collection. Lagerfeld was inspiring to many people and brought great things to Chanel. What’s more he was very appreciative of his right hand woman; Virginie Viard. Iin the Netflix Documentary, Who What Wear, he said “Virginie is the most important person, not only for me but also for the atelier, for everything”. After his passing, he has assigned Viard to be the successor of Chanel. This conveys to me that not all men have stereotypical views on a woman’s capability in the industry. Lagerfeld knew the importance of having a woman as his Assistant.

Furthermore, many other huge designers like Vivienne Westwood, Rei Kawakubo (Comme Des Garçons), Stella McCartney, Diane Von Furstenberg and many more, have revolutionised the industry forever. It is clear to me that, despite many men playing the higher roles now, women have mostly always taken the centre stage.

Old-fashioned views from Nike

In 2018 many articles hit the tabloids with complaints from women working at Nike. The worst thing about these complaints is that they were taken to HR a long time before the news posts were released. The human resource team at Nike ignored the employees. Stating that there was little to no evidence to show this behaviour. I find this information shocking, how can women go through this horrible experience in a work place like Nike? Surely if this is happening in Nike, it is happening in many other businesses?

According to the Business of Fashion, in 2018 the women at Nike created a survey and handed it to female employees. After the surveys were complete, they left them on the Chief Executive’s desk. Not long after, over 5 of the top executives left the business. This is a huge number! And, I still can’t believe how they got away with this for so long. It makes you wonder whether the fashion industry really has become a place just for men. Where women are mocked instead of celebrated.

The Gender Issue

It is clear there is a gender problem in many fashion businesses. It is something women may have to strive, for another decade, to get rid of (not that we should have to!). These executive roles are difficult. They require power, confidence and determination. However, women are equally as capable as men, and their say counts.

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