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The Gap in Female Leadership is Beyond Diversity, It's About Fashion's Essence

by Otonye Senibo

With the new appointment of Sean McGirr as the latest Creative Director for Alexander McQueen, the ever-growing question about the lack of female creative directors has risen.

Succeeding Sarah Burton who brilliantly steered McQueen's creative vision for the past 13 years, it almost feels as though the industry is moving backwards. 

In fact, every single current Creative Director under the luxury giant Kering Group are white men. 

Kering Group are one of the world’s leading luxury goods company. The global conglomerate head renowned brands like Alexander McQueen as well names including Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Brioni. 

Despite being a huge powerhouse, Kering Group have zero POC or female creative directors - despite the fact that five of the six luxury fashion houses Kering Group owns specialise in luxury womenswear fashion. 

This is a recurring theme in the world of fashion.  

While McQueen’s step backward has had Kering Group in the hot seat, it’s important to look at it’s competitors too. 

LVMH is the world’s largest luxury goods conglomerate and houses the likes of Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Fendi, and Givenchy. 

You’ll notice a pattern here as, again, white male creative directors predominantly lead LVMH’s luxury womenswear fashion houses. 

To put it into perspective, 22% of their creative directors are white women, 16% are men of colour and, unfortunately, 0% of creative directors at LVMH are women of colour. 

This means that 62% of LVMH’s creative directors are white men out of all 14 fashion houses in the LVMH portfolio.

While male creative directors have undeniably contributed to the fashion landscape, there's a discernible lack of female leadership in luxury brands primarily designing womenswear. 

Of course ensuring diversity is important to allow equal opportunities, but it also has a major knock-on effect for the quality and practicality of clothing too. 

The dominance of white male creative directors in womenswear fashion houses has a range of implications including limited regard for practical design elements like sizing and functional features. 

As male creative directors, regardless of talent, don't have the lived experience of a woman's body, how will they know what women need from their clothing?

More often than not, this lack of knowledge leads to designs that, while often beautiful and aesthetically innovative, are not functionally suited for the different body types of women. 

Another common complaint from women about fashion is the lack of pockets or even the inclusion of purely decorative unusable or shallow pockets in the garments. 

Pockets are a practical need for many women, allowing them to carry essentials without being reliant on bags. This consistent oversight in pocket design suggests that practical necessities, which might be more obvious to female creative directors, are sometimes overlooked in favour of aesthetics.

Many garments for women require an understanding of shaping, support, and structure, especially when it comes to items like bras, shapewear, and certain types of dresses. 

Misunderstanding or sidelining these requirements can lead to uncomfortable or ill-fitting garments. This has a higher chance of happening with male creative directors. 

As those who indulge in fashion, it’s easy to observed this consistent pattern: having male creative directors as the heads of womenswear fashion houses means the practicality of womenswear gets lost in the world of aesthetics.

The overrepresentation of white male creative directors in womenswear is not just an issue of diversity. While male creative directors offer valuable perspectives to womenswear, their overrepresentation may constrain the industry's diversity and innovation.


Edited by Emily Duff

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