Though we often think of the world of fashion design as one dominated by women because of notable figures like Diane von Furstenberg and Carolina Herrera, we are wrong. At the CFDA Awards last June the prizes were given out to 18 men and three women. The stats are similar for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. But why is this happening with 85% of the graduating class of Parsons, a top fashion institution, being made up of women. What is happening with all the women designers? ”We call it the lucky boys’ club,” designer Victoria Bartlett told Style.com.
“Given that fashion, unlike film and art, is run by women, you’d think it’d be the one creative industry that champions women, but for some reason, most of the prominent artists are men,” said Sophie Buhai, who launched Vena Cava with Lisa Mayock in 2004, shortly after they graduated from Parsons. But one of the main problems seems to be the relationship between the designer and the fashion magazine editor. The male designers are favored because they can be more social in their role by going out and attending parties as well as maybe appearing on the arm of the woman’s dress they designed. And again, female designers are faced with the dilemma that most women face in that they have to decide if they want to work 100 hours a week and attend every part or have some sort of work/life balance. Designer Daryl Kerrigan believes she lost out on the job at Celine that eventually went to Michael Kors because she had a family life, according to Style.com.
In 2007, Women’s Wear Daily published a piece questioning why there weren’t more female fashion designers. The article cited that although more women were becoming heads of illustrious fashion houses, it was men, gay men, specifically, who reigned supreme. Said Floriane de Saint Pierre, head of a consulting firm in Paris, ”In the early 1990s, the creative directors of fashion houses were nearly all men.” Model booker Rachel Khona said: “It doesn’t mean women can’t get ahead, but you certainly have to sacrifice certain things. Women tend to want to get married and settle down. As gay men don’t necessarily want to, it allows them to go out and network and party every day of the week until the wee hours. Their aesthetic is what dominates fashion as well.”
But women are trying to change the system, according to Style.com. Eight months pregnant designer Phoebe Philo scaled down her Celine show invite list. ”The pinnacle of success shouldn’t be to have a business like a guy,” says Maria Cornejo. “In my way of thinking, it’s not that guys are better or worse; it’s that women have a different way of working, a different business model. Bless Phoebe. She’s saying, you know what, I’m having a kid and that takes priority.”
Male designers also tend to make more stunningly visual creations (think Jean Paul Gautier) while female designers may be slightly more practical because they are dressing themselves (Donna Karan, Stella McCartney.)