We said it best in Fobes.com and we’re saying it again. Here’s the article, originally published in Forbes.
The other day I hosted a dinner with some close friends, almost all of whom are either bankers or lawyers. Most of them already know that I transitioned from law to a fashion startup. The conversations I’ve had related on the topic usually go pretty much the same way: I tell people that I am working on a fashion tech startup that is changing the way the fashion industry works, and I get a response like, “I don’t really care about fashion, but it’s cool you are doing it. It makes sense because you love shoes.”
But this time around, something different happened.
It would be trite to say that the difference in reaction was based simply on our gender. After all, men have contributed tremendously to fashion. However, there are very real reasons why women aren’t taken as seriously as men. I have a few theories as to why that is:
- Fashion-loving women are given a bad rap. Women who love fashion (fabrics, designs, shopping) are likened to characters from “Clueless.” The assumption is that you are into frivolities and the excitement surrounding fashion, but you don’t have the brainpower to understand how it works as an industry. After all, the only reason a woman would have a fashion tech company is so she can receive discounts galore on a whole new wardrobe, right? Luckily, times are changing, and powerful women CEOs have shown that being put together and educated in fashion does not somehow decrease brain cell count.
- Men in fashion are a novelty. It’s easy to assume that an industry geared towards women would be predominantly run by women. So when you meet a man in the fashion world, it inspires shock and awe. A man must be extremely talented to forgo other stellar job opportunities in order to venture into fashion. But if you did just a quick sweep of the major fashion labels, you would realize that successful women in fashion are more of a novelty than men (Tom Ford, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Valentino, Christian Louboutin — just to name a few). How many women (aside from Vera Wang) in fashion can you think of off the top of your head?
- People perceive women in fashion as catty. You really can’t understand the fashion industry until you are inside it; still, people see it as a vapid industry filled with cattiness (because no catty behavior occurs at investment banks!). But since the stereotype of catty behavior is attributed to women, the assumption is that if a man is working in fashion, he must be rolling his eyes and problem-solving while the women talk about each other endlessly. I’d like to thank reality TV for this one.
- “Kept” women go into fashion, men make their way. Thanks to the tremendous increase of well-to-do women starting their own lines and fashion tech startups, there is an underlying assumption that if you are a female in fashion,it’s because all your bills are paid. On the other hand, when you read stories about men in the fashion world, they reflect talent, struggle, and determination. Media stories that focus on those celebrity-turned-fashion-entrepreneurs instead of the women who are talented, determined and struggling to make it further exacerbate the issue.
When it comes down to it, there is a difference in how we perceive women in fashion. But like all things, we can lead the charge and find ways to change it from the inside. In fact, we already are. Women are increasingly taking the helm of fashion tech companies, shaping the way that fashion is bought and sold. They are proving age-old stereotypes wrong as they build companies around fashion that surpass expectations (take Tori Burch, for example).
Moreover, the fact is that women know how fashion works and how consumers want to experience it — after all, we’re one of fashion’s largest consumer bases. As women continue to step up and take control of the way fashion — and the industries around it — view us, the conversation will change too.
After all, as much as I love Tom Ford, I don’t know if I love the idea of only men dictating what is “in” fashion.