I want to take a break from the normal fare of my blog and the invisibility of women on the international trade agenda to talk about the invisibility of women in the U.S. fashion industry.
Tim Gunn's recent Op-Ed in the Washington Post Designers refuse to make clothes to fit American women. It’s a disgrace. highlights just how backwards, short-sighted and maddeningly obtuse the mainstream fashion industry can be. They are literally leaving $20.4 billion a year - let me repeat $20.4 billion dollars a YEAR - on the table because they don't want to - or don't have the smarts and talent to - help the average American woman look beautiful and have great clothes to buy.
It just goes to show how prejudice hurts the pocket books of these designers and, in fact, our entire economy. How much money could these designers earn and add to our economy if they opened up design houses and clothing manufacturing in the U.S. to serve an underserved market and make ALL the women in our country feel great about themselves?
According to Gunn, the fashion industry is still using aesthetics, business models and fashion runway techniques developed before American women had the right to vote.
Even more startling, Nike has only 5 designs - 5 designs! - of sportswear for larger women. With the fitness craze, with almost everyone wanting to get out and move it to improve our health regardless of how or whether it improves our waist lines - I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that Nike is so blind that it cannot see it can make not just more but gobs and gobs of money by catering to all these women who want to get out and jog and lift weights just like their thinner counterparts. Planet Fitness anyone? Someone needs to fill this vacuum.
It's enough to make me want to beat my head against a wall - and I've already got a dent there from beating my head against the wall about the short-sightedness of the global manufacturing industry which cannot see the link between absurdly low wages, excessive overtime by moms and dads in factories and kids at home running amok without adequate supervision and education in economies that aren't growing in the right places.
I'll close by making a shout out to my nephew Chris of Closet by Christobal who started out his fashion design career in high school helping his aunties, classmates and cousins look beautiful no matter what their size. A frequent feature in the annual Philadelphia Fashion Week, Chris is in his own personal basement sweatshop night and day designing and sewing beautiful outfits for all kinds of women.
Let's just hope that investors and backers start pulling designers like Closet by Christobal out of their basements and into the limelight where they belong.