For Women, By Men: Why The Fashion Industry Is Inherently Sexist


When it comes to fashion, many may assume that the whole thing is pretty much for girls. Well, Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic Robin Givhan has a different outlook. In a 2011 Daily Beast column, Givhan exposed the rampant sexism among fashion editors and tastemakers. She wrote:

“While the fashion business is overwhelmingly for and about women, it always seems that women have the hardest time capturing the imagination of the industry’s king — or queen — makers… while there seem to be countless young men in the fashion pipeline who have been anointed as the next great designer, the women who are their contemporaries seem to be quietly plugging along, without much fanfare and certainly without the labels of “darling,” “wunderkind” or anything else that suggests they have some kind of genius struggling to escape.”

Another feminist outcry in the fashion industry came straight from the fashion icon Donatella Versace, during an interview with the Telegraph a couple of years ago. "Feminism is dead in the world," she said. "It comes from another time. I'm a feminist. I want to fight, but I don't see many people with this desire to fight for something. Women don't help each other, especially in fashion. I know Miuccia… but that's it. Nobody else."

And to top the comments, just last year, Sarah Jessica Parker, came clean about her brief stint at design house, Halston, where she had been hired as the Chief Creative Officer of the lower-priced label in January 2010.

"I was brought in to help run a fashion company for about a year (although I don't want to name names)," she said. "I was shocked to experience an old-fashioned attitude about women and business: Women had titles but were treated as figureheads. So it wasn't one negotiation, but an ongoing negotiation to make clear that my voice was just as important, and that if they wanted me to be an active participant, it had to be an open conversation."

Numerous women who work in other fields claim to experience sexism on a daily basis. But, these women, struggle or no struggle, are in top jobs. It's an oft-quoted statistic that women only hold 3.8% of the CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. But upon considering just retail corporations within the fashion industry, the number drops to just 1.7%.

This suggests that perhaps real sexism takes place in the lower echelons of the industry: the interns, the assistants and even the underground designers.

While there is no exact answer to settle this debate, there is at least some agreement that fashion may globally please women more than men. But still, questions remain regarding who is on top and why.

Sources: Forbes Magazine, Grazia Daily, Toronto SunPicture source: We Heart It