December 17, 2013

Boy Meets Girl

A friend of mine inspired this post when she commented on how she would have preferred a gender neutral pronoun in reference to "designer" in my Am I Materialistic? post. This lead to a brief, but interesting, discussion on how most designers in fashion are actually male. My friend was skeptical of my claim, and I don't blame her. It only makes sense that women should be succeeding in an industry that caters so dominantly to other women.

This is a topic that has been flushed out many times over, but as I did some research, I came across truly fascinating stats on Daily Life:
  • While male designers have taken home the Vogue Fashion Fund/CDFA Awards' Womenswear Award 13 out of 18 times, a woman has never won the Menswear Award.
  • The most fast-rising under-30 designer success stories all belong to men.
  • 70% of fashion graduates are female, yet the majority of them don't make it to the top.  High street, fast fashion is comprised proportionally of more women than the luxury fashion sector.

So why is this?  Obviously history of a male-orientated culture has driven this trend, with a lot of today's biggest, most historical labels having been started by men.  Yet, there were still women who made a name for themselves (Coco Chanel, Madame Grès, Elsa Schiaparelli), and the numerous designer changeovers we've had over the years should have evened out the gender disparity by now. Could it be true that men know what we want better than we do?  That we aspire to fashion ourselves into the image men expect of us? Or, as another argument goes, that because men tend to be more extravagant, whereas women tend to be more practical and functional, we just find ourselves more attracted to male designers?

Men don't live the life of a woman, but they go out of their way to understand what it is we want. Their efforts don't always translate into complete success (Christian Louboutin...your shoes are amazing, but goodness, that heel.  Made for walking 5 steps, at most), but when they do, the results are astonishing.  The way I see it, it's not that male designers know us better than we do, but that they give us what we need and want, along with what we didn't know we wanted.  They give us the functionality and female flair that we require, along with the titillating freshness of an outside perspective.  However, I don't believe this is a result of men being more fantastical than women; that's too much of an over-generalization.  The way I see it, women know exactly what it is other women want, which makes them more accessible to the average consumer, and thus, more successful in the realm of fast fashion.

Then the next obvious question is: why aren't women dominating menswear?  Men and fashion have a rocky relationship.  Fashion is something we realistically deal with everyday as we get dressed, but it just isn't "masculine" to care about the way you look.  No matter how much we try to understand men, the way a girl thinks/wants a man should dress isn't always what a man is willing to wear.  Women effortlessly step into androgyny, but that step is more of a leap for men.  However, with male designers actually making menswear more feminine, creating society's new "metrosexual", it's now quite admirable to see a man who puts a little effort into how he looks (girls, rejoice with me).  So whether it's menswear designed by men, or menswear designed by women, it really shouldn't matter moving forward.

Even as I sit here speculating the reason why men dominate the upper echelons of fashion, I'm already a step behind, because women are quickly rising to the top. There's digital-print queen Mary Katrantzou, wildly successful Miuccia Prada, celebrity favourites Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig of Marchesa, and unconventional talents Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, among many, many others.  It won't be long before female designers even out the gender imbalance, and show the world that both men and women have equal chance of making it to the top.

Image Source: Photo 1, 2, 3, 4. 5


  1. Male designers for me seem to have more elaborated imaginations in design of their must-be ideal female dress. Some are inspired by the sci-fi, futuristic and fantasy world. Maybe because the way they perceive is that a woman has the figure to wear anything whereas men has limited designs because to our huge differences of gender outward appearance. I wish to see more men wearing skirts!

  2. You inspire me in other ways ;)

    1. Haha! This would be creepy if I didn't know who you were.

  3. this girl needs to meet a boy. LOL


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