A sad day for International Women's Day in Fashion
In celebrating International Women’s Day, the fashion and beauty industries can feel pretty good about their inclusion and acceptance of women in leadership positions – or at least when you look at other big business categories.
So many women have literally shaped the history of modern fashion: Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Madame Gres, Liz Claiborne, Anne Klein, Donna Karan, Carolina Herrera, Stella McCartney and Miuccia Prada all jump to mind. And the key faces of the cosmetics business of the last century certainly include Estee Lauder, Mary Kay, Helena Rubenstein and Bobbi Brown.
Still, I’d bet a closet full of dresses and lipsticks from all these style superstars that there are ultimately more men driving these businesses today.
Donna Karan has often said that she excelled in her career because she understood what it’s like to try and get dressed in the morning as a woman who juggled work, family, and a desire to look beautiful in clothes that were both easy and flattering. She nailed it because she was her customer. Makes sense, right?
Sad fact is: women in fashion do not always support the cause of women.
Take the sublimely elegant iconic New York female designer, Carolina Herrera, for example. She wore her look better than anyone else in recent fashion history, if you ask me. Carolina had four daughters- Patricia Cristina Herrera, Ana Luisa Behrens, Mercedes Behrens- and surrounded herself with her girls often when it came to charitable benefits, celebrity photo shoots and moments in the press.
Last month during NY Fashion Week Carolina announced she was stepping down as the creative lead of her brand and would be taking more of an ambassadorship role. Who did she turn over her design duties to? Not to her daughters. Not to any woman, for that matter.
Carolina Herrera chose Wes Gordon – yes, a youngish guy- to take the lead. I wonder how he’d look in her signature crisp white shirt and pencil skirt. What makes this so distasteful in particular is the fact that Carolina has made it in some part her 'pitch' during her career to be a woman, a family woman, supportive of women. Yet, in the final hour she could not find a single female designer worthy to succeed her (if not her daughters?)
It is ironic (and quite a disgrace) that though the most coveted consumer is women it is STILL mostly men in the driver's seats of the Fashion business.
The mastery of craft and business is gender neutral. When Donatella Versace took over the family business after the tragic death of her brother Gianni, there were a lot of questions whether she had the chops to navigate through. Fast forward 20+ years, and Donatella just celebrated another triumphant runway show at Milan Fashion Week.
You go, girl!
And so it is, perhaps, that it falls to the next generation to turn the tide. There’s an entire generation of Versace fans, for example, who only know a woman at the helm of the company. Manhattan Minds hopes that this generation will turn its attention next to fashion, in honor of International Women's Day. Fashion, like Hollywood, is still rampant with inequities in a male driven industry.
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