In the immortal words of James Brown “this is a man’s world.” Sung back in 1966, this still rings true today, even when it comes to the fashion world, a world typically seen as a woman’s realm. And for good reason; out of 100 shoppers, over 60 of them are probably women or girls! The fashion industry knows it too, charging an average mark-up of 7% percent on women’s shopping items, such as shampoos, razors or jeans. Luxury retail, i.e. the likes of Saint Laurent, Gucci or Balmain, will charge women even 25% more for items similar to those of male fashionistas. This phenomenon has been lovingly dubbed “The Pink Tax”.
The Pink Tax can be justified when delving deeper into the tailoring and manufacturing process. For the most part, women are willing to spend more on fashion than men, as evidenced by the fact that the women’s fashion apparel industry is valued at $ 639 billion, a whopping 25% higher than men’s. The gap is narrowing though. Men’s shopping is growing more than women’s. Enough of your snarky comments gentlemen! you are buying more than women at this point!
It isn’t just the spending (what recession?) that is favorably skewed towards men in fashion: only 40% of womenswear brands have a woman at the helm depending on where you are in the world. In New York and London, the number is as high as 47%. In Paris, home turf of Coco Chanel, the number is an astonishing 37%. What does this all mean?
It means that men seem to know what women want. For example, Karl Lagerfeld, who has been heading Chanel and Fendi for decades; or Olivier Rousteing, the creative director of Balmain, who exclusively dresses the Kardashians. Women are entering the workforce but are unable to reach creative director by age 35, because they are focused on family and children, a tale as old as time itself.
But fear not, there are some pioneers in fashion paving the way for you to have your cake and eat it, too. Think of Phoebe Philo, mother of 3, or better known as the designer behind Celine and largely credited for its 2012 resurrection. Philo became so indispensable to LVMH that they willingly relocated the Paris-based studio to London for her. Another prime example is Victoria Beckham, who has succeeded in building her own empire while maintaining a family. In a 2015 interview for Harper’s Bazaar, ex-Posh Spice exclaimed that “It’s a juggling act, but we have great people around to make sure it all works.”
Women are regaining control of fashion and their own clothes to participate in an ecosystem of gender parity. Not just regaining, but possibly taking over. It is only fitting when men and women alike are strutting down the same runway, during the same show, wearing each other’s clothes. While women uncovered the secret delight of borrowing from the boys since the 1920s, men are only now jumping on the bandwagon. So, in conclusion- it may still be “a man’s world…but it wouldn’t nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.”
So, in conclusion, it may still be “a man’s world…but it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.”