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Style Editor, Nancy Serle, discusses Donna Karan’s latest controversial appearance at the 2017 CinéFashion Film Awards. The American fashion designer, and creator of DKNY, thoughtlessly demeaned victims of sexual assault, despite the fact she has ‘spent her life championing women’.

Donna Karan’s suggestion that victims of sexual assault may be ‘asking for it’ if they wear revealing outfits embodies everything that is wrong with rape culture. Coming to the defence of disgraced Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, the centre of countless sexual assault and rape allegations, Karan wrongly and archaically shifted blame on to those who have endured sexual assault rather than the perpetrator.

Speaking at the CinéFashion Film Awards last week she told a reporter:

‘I think we have to look at ourselves. Obviously, the treatment of women all over the world is something that has always had to be identified. Certainly, in the country of Haiti where I work, in Africa, in the developing world, it’s been a hard time for women’

‘To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?’

‘And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?’

Karan’s comments are not only shocking due to their insensitivity to Weinstein’s victims, and to sexual assault survivors in general, but because of her decades long career in designing female clothing. As a prominent figure in the fashion industry, Karan should be supporting and advocating women’s agency to wear what they please without fear of sexual harassment, not questioning the victim’s role in their own abuse. No-one should have to fear being sexually harassed, or worse, because of their sartorial choices, to propose otherwise is ridiculous.

Karan has since claimed that her comments have been ‘taken out of context’ in a statement sent to the Daily Mail:

‘I was honored at the Cinémoi Fashion Film Awards in Hollywood and while answering a question on the red carpet I made a statement that unfortunately is not representative of how I feel or what I believe.’

‘I have spent my life championing women. My life has been dedicated to dressing and addressing the needs of women, empowering them and promoting equal rights.’

‘My statements were taken out of context and do not represent how I feel about the current situation concerning Harvey Weinstein.’

‘I believe that sexual harassment is NOT acceptable and this is an issue that MUST be addressed once and for all regardless of the individual. I am truly sorry to anyone that I offended and everyone that has ever been a victim.’

Whilst it is highly doubtful Karan purposefully meant to cause offence and upset to those affected by Weinstein’s actions or sexual assault in general- one alleged victim Rose McGowen denounced Karan’s comments as ‘deplorable’- her words are still damaging. Although her statement may have been ‘taken out of context’, unfortunately, Karan’s words do nothing to help demythologise the idea that a low-cut top or a tight dress are excuses for sexual harassment. Abusers have escaped jail time because of this very myth. Hopefully, in the future, Karan will think before she speaks and understand the gravity of her words.


What do you think of Donna Karan’s latest accusations and her reaction to it? Let us know here:

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