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Last week, the New York Times published an explosive story about sexual harassment allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein; just this morning, the New Yorker reported that three women have accused Weinstein of rape. Since the Times published its first story on Thursday, plenty of famous women have gone on the record to defend Weinstein’s accusers and critique an industry that has a long history of sexism.
Fashion’s most high-profile take so far comes from Donna Karan via an on-camera interview at the CinéFashion Film Awards this Sunday in Los Angeles. “I think we have to look at ourselves,” she says. “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.”
So far Karan’s statement isn’t alarming, and she could have ended there. However, the woman who built a business dressing women for 30 years continues: “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?”
Lest you think she’s being rhetorical, she then explicitly defends the former studio head — and blames women instead. “It’s not Harvey Weinstein,” she says. ”You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they’re asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.” Karan — who is friends with both Weinstein and his wife, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman — adds that she thinks the couple are “wonderful people,” and that Weinstein in particular has done some “amazing things.”
Following a very swift backlash, Karan and her team released a statement Monday evening, hours after the interview surfaced: “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.”
But Karan’s response rings hollow. Arguing that a quote is “out of context” isn’t a thing you can do when your statements can stand on their own. During the interview, the designer expressed complete thoughts about the way women dress and act and exist in the world and drew a direct line between that and asking to be sexually harassed. Her words — which, again, were on video — speak for themselves.