Elsa Johnson

Equality: What can you buy with $277.70?

Elsa Johnson
Equality: What can you buy with $277.70?

(Published in the Naked Mag October 2016)

By Elsa Johnson

The Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency identified the national pay gap between men and women as 17.3%, with women earning $277.70 less than men a week. That’s $1,110 a month and $14,440 a year. That’s a week of rent, that’s a Kowtow dress, or the beginning of your dream trip to Europe.

Equality, and in particular, gender equality, is something that needs to be addressed in order for the future of the fashion industry to be an ethical one.

"Men are often better designers for women than other women." Tom Ford

Still today, the head fashion designers are men. Women make up 70% of the fashion industry but only hold 25% of leadership positions in top fashion companies. Of the 92 shows for Paris Fashion Week only 30 have women as creative directors. In over 70 years of fashion, Dior has only just announced its first female couturier.

It’s not just fashion either. Earlier this year Triple J focused on gender equality in the music industry. One issue discussed was how women are a large part of the industry, but like fashion, only a small minority gain success within it. Breaking it down by numbers, only 37 of the top 100 tracks in Triple J’s Hottest 100 in 2016 featured female vocals. Just like the music industry, the fashion industry is dominated by men. Why?

I am part of the Undress team and my role is Designer Liaison. I work with fashion designers to develop a kickass runway show at the end of the year. This position provides me with a clear view of the industry as I assist these designers to develop their brand.

Most of the designers showing with us are women, many developing labels are run by women and 70% of fashion graduates are women. But when it comes to internationally renowned positions within the fashion industry, it is men that dominate.

There are different views on why men are more successful in an industry that largely celebrates and caters to women; unfortunately the most common opinion is that women want to settle down. And being a man in fashion has the advantages of working late and partying hard without the stress of family. I am not sure who this phenomenon stereotypes more, women or men. We all know this is just not the case.

We have a long history of strong male opinions on the role of women in the industry; “Women are confused about who they want to be. I believe that male designers have the fantasy level that women do not.” Michael Vollbracht (Bill Blass). Women design for women, they live in the clothes. Hopefully this generation will see more women take on influential roles within the industry and share their fantasies.

When trying to make it as a woman, there is no clear cut answer; it’s part hard work and part luck (the same as it is for anyone). Let’s raise women’s confidence and work alongside men to create a  fair, harmonious and happy fashion industry.

“Women don’t need muses. They are their own muses.” Diane Von Furstenberg

If only we could, like rampant consumerism, buy gender equality for $277.70.