This morning, when Dior announced Maria Grazia Chiuri as the new creative director of the house, she became the first woman to ever helm the namesake of one of the most famous men in fashion. Dior’s CEO, Sidney Toledano, told Business of Fashion that he “was looking for somebody that was deeply understanding the needs of a woman of today and tomorrow globally.” It seems like a no-brainer—who best to know what women want than a woman? Who best to connect with women than a woman? Besides, isn’t fashion a woman’s “realm” anyway? That’s what society tells us, at least. Those ladies sure do like clothes and froufrou trappings, silly things that they are! So why is it that the (overwhelming) majority of couture designers right now are men?
Out of the 25 houses that showed collections at Paris couture week this season, only five were helmed by a woman on her own (the ladies behind Fendi and Valentino worked with a male counterpart). With Chiuri at Dior next season, this number is expected to rise to at least six, keeping the breakdown of female designers slightly over 1 in 5. Wait, what?
It feels as though in fashion, especially women’s fashion, our heroes are more likely to be men. Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, André Courrèges, Charles James—the list goes on, not to mention the current top dogs in the industry, like Karl Lagerfeld, Hedi Slimane, and Marc Jacobs. This is not to say that female fashion designers don’t get due credit. Miuccia Prada, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Coco Chanel are all considered geniuses. But why aren’t there more women in top positions?