Another week, another feminist outcry in the fashion world. Following on from Miuccia Prada, who just last month declared she almost didn’t work in fashion because she felt it conflicted with her feminist principles, now it’s the turn of Donatella Versace.
When asked about Ms Prada’s comments, the Versace doyenne’s outlook was equally bleak: ‘Feminism is dead in the world. 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’.
The allegation, which came out during an interview with the Telegraph, wasn’t entirely expected. Despite her icy demeanour, Donatella has never knowingly shown signs of vulnerability and predictably, her quotes went viral. But given that very few of us work within the fashion industry, it still begs the question of validity. If two major players claim the fashion industry is sexist, is it time we actually took notice?
It’s a tricky one. The minutiae of their respective ‘sexist’ experiences remains hazy. Also, it should be noted that they both started working within the industry at a time when sexism wasn’t surprising. Not to condone it, but this argument would have more gravitas if said sexism took place today. Plus, numerous women in numerous fields claim to experience sexism on a daily basis – the Guardian recently bemoaned the lack of female journalists in the newsroom and just last week the BBC revealed that women hold less than a third of the top jobs. Whatever Miuccia and Donatella are basing their quotes on, the truth is, struggle or no struggle, they
But what do we know? As Jane Shepherdson, Chief Executive of Whistles recently told Grazia’s Angela Buttolph: ‘In this business, being a woman has to be an advantage, although that doesn't explain why in an industry comprising over 80% women, there are so few running businesses’.
So perhaps it’s within the lower echelons of the industry that real sexism takes place: the interns, the assistants or even the underground designers. Successful, granted, but less publicly known. When asked about her experience, uber-hip designer, Carri Munden of Cassette Playa fame admitted to being sidelined on occasion: ‘I’ve been out with my boyfriend at a fashion event, and people would ask 'does he run the business?', she recently told Angela. 'What does he do?' He doesn’t do anything! People were always looking for the other people [behind my business]. I’ve done everything myself, and I still do. I think people are a bit surprised.’
Make that four voices, then, arguably a trend – albeit a worrying one. So maybe, just maybe, there’s something in it…