While presenting his Emporio Armani fashion line at the Milan Fashion Week in February, designer Giorgio Armani came under fire making controversial statements (to say the least) about the fashion industry and its treatment of women.
It started off innocuously enough, with him telling reporters that he was “tired of hearing trends.” He encouraged writers to write about the thinking that goes into designing clothes – from himself as well as other famous designers like Alessandro Michele at Gucci and Miuccia Prada at Prada. He then preludes his next comments with “I am at a moment when I can say what I think.”
“There is so much talk about women being raped, but women today are regularly ‘raped’ by designers,” the veteran designer said, ” I am thinking of certain ads where women are shown in a provocative way, half naked, and many women feel pressured into looking like that. That for me is rape. It’s unbefitting. Look around, they think that by wearing black leggings and a bomber they become modern. Excuse my outburst and the strong words, but I felt like I had to say this.”
To say that designers need to look after the models and to present them in a way that isn’t outright obscene is one thing. To liken their mistreatment to sexual violence is completely another. There is no comparison and the two are poles apart.
Armani made his statement in Italian and while things can usually get lost or misheard in translation, this was not one such case. When asked to clarify what he meant, he doubled down on it saying, “Women can be raped in various ways. Throwing her under a stairwell or suggesting she dresses in a certain way: for me, that is raping a woman.”
In any language, the word “rape” cannot be used lightly. While it is noble of him to say that women need to be respected in the line of work that he is involved in – it is not equivalent to rape. Rape is trauma – and not just physical. It is also mental and emotional trauma. Fashion, while known for exploitation of women for imagery – something that does need to be rectified – is not rape and to liken the two together is insensitive, cruel and downright imbecile. While one can try to have put this one down to language or age or any of the other factors involved in the formulation of that statement, it is a futile attempt because nothing explains the use of the word “rape” in that context.
Thankfully though, he did come to his senses and issue an apology later, saying “If I could turn back and have used another word to express that all of us designers have the duty to respect the women we design clothes for I would”.
Last modified: 12th March 2020