To say that that the fashion industry is occupied with an abundance of male designers isn’t a foreign observation. We are so used to having men tell us what to wear we don’t ever tend to think about questioning it. But what authority do men have in telling us females how to dress?
History tells us that females have always been perceived as the feebler sex, constantly relying on their male counterpart to tell them what to do and how to think. Judith Butler argued that the central issue of fighting against the ‘patriarchal discourse’ is reliant on the very fact that such argument still favors a difference in identity, based on ‘sex’ or ‘biology’. Fast forward to the 21st century and Emily Pankhurst didn’t get trampled on a by horse in 1928, campaigning for the vote, in order for women to still leave it up to men to make the decisions for them in 2014.
Bill Blass’ Michael Vollbracht thinks that, “Women are confused about who they want to be. I believe that male designers have the fantasy level that women do not.” Sometimes it is not about the fantasy element. Stella McCartney, Isabel Marant, Phoebe Philo have lived the life of their consumer, with Philo even pulling off a runway show when she was 8 months pregnant. This, in turn, has educated the quality, fit and aesthetic of their collections. Vivienne Westwood has set out to empower women by going against the norm, using herself in her fashion campaigns, projecting a positive representation of age and body image. This is what women need to feel empowered and comfortable in their own skin, not some 6’4ft, size 4, aesthetically perfect version of a woman that the majority of us will never be.
Tom Ford has been quoted as saying, “I think we are more objective. We don’t come with the baggage of hating certain parts of our bodies.” You have to ask yourself why the majority of women are wrapped up in self-loathing. If you look at Tom Ford’s campaigns, the answer will stare you right in the face. Is it empowering for a woman to see a naked faceless female model with a perfume bottle jammed between her legs? Here you have a man who designs for women and wants to make them feel good, yet he is using negative imagery of women in his fragrance campaigns, which, are aimed at men. Women look at other women with envy because it is the ideal that designers are using over and over again in order to increase consumerism. Without this ideal, women would not believe that they should be anything else other than themselves.
The King of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld has been throwing around misogynistic, body-slamming quotes for years. Recently, he encountered a law suit from the French organisation ‘Beautiful, Round, Sexy and Okay With It’ for claiming, “Nobody wants to see round women on the catwalk.” This is not the first time that the German born, leather wearing, sunglasses indoors designer has expressed a view much similar to this one. Upon speaking about singer Adele, Lagerfeld articulated that she has a pretty face and a divine voice despite being too fat. Of course, we all know that women of a certain stature cannot have more than one endearing quality. With revenue of €6.3 billion (2012) it is a wonder why women still feel compelled to buy from a brand that has such an adverse figure head.
Male designers aren’t all bad, however. Much like Thierry Mugler in the 1980’s, when power dressing was at the forefront of culture, McQueen set out to empower women and wanted people to be afraid of the women he dressed. Yohji Yamamoto wants to protect a human’s body. Hiding women’s bodies is about sexuality and a sense of mystery. Everything doesn’t need to be on show for the outfit to be fashionable or appealing.
Arguably, women, by nature, are more sensitive towards others. Maybe if men were more conscious about women’s feelings instead of thinking of the money that they will make from enforcing their ideals of what a woman should be, women may feel empowered by what they have to offer. At the end of the day, we don’t need a man to tell us what looks good. Let’s just leave the aesthetics of females to the females, shall we?