Battle Of The Sexes: Designer Edition

While reading Fashionologie yesterday,  I came across an interview with Eres designer, Valerie Delafosse.  In it, Delafosse is quoted as saying, “You really have to have a deep understanding of the female body. You need to try things on, and it is only by trying things on myself that I discover what works and what doesn’t. There is a female sensibility to it. A man is going to be more focused on the fantasy and his own projections of a woman, whereas a woman will focus on the realities of a woman’s daily life.”  Now, she was referring to her design firm, which produces swimwear and lingerie, but it got me thinking- does this theory apply to fashion as a whole?

Eres homewear. (Image via Eres)

On the surface and for a split second maybe you think there is something to Delafosse’ theory.  It seems logical that a woman would know best how to dress other women.  And yes, as a woman, it is absolutely easier for me to commiserate with other women about my imperfections.  So working with a design firm that understands that may seem like a good idea.

But on the other hand it can be argued that designs produced by a man who’s focus is more about accentuating the positive (instead of down playing the negative) could be even more successful.  I mean let’s be serious here for a moment- are you telling me Tom Ford doesn’t know how to make a woman look (and feel!) both sensual and powerful?!  The notion just seems silly.  And there are many other male designers I can say the same thing about.

Tom Ford: Fall 2011 Collection. (Image via Chanel After CoCo)

At the end of the day, the question of “who is the better designer?” has nothing to do with gender.  Much more important is the designer’s ability to appreciate their client- flaws and all! From there the job is to translate that appreciation into thoughtful and unique designs.

And as far as Delafosse’s statement:  I would say, you have to be careful of saying that something is a ‘girl’s job’ or a ‘boy’s job.’  After all, if women (myself included!) are going to work towards shattering the glass ceiling we can’t simultaneously say “no men allowed on this floor.”


What do you think about Valerie Delafosse’s statement?  Do you agree?  Are women or men better designers?


  1. Seeing that my favorite designer in the world is the very MAN you mention above (to the point where I started a second blog dedicated to him!), I would have to disagree. The point is that a designer has to understand the female and male form, period. Just because a designer is a woman, that doesn’t mean she will automatically understand the female form in its countless iterations. She understands her own body automatically and how clothing fits her shape – what about all the other shapes out there? A man can figure those out just as well as she can. Tom Ford certainly has!

  2. It’s all a gift. Either you have it or you don’t. Gender is irrelevant.

  3. this is such a well thought out debate! I would have to agree with you in that both genders create equally superior designs (and inferior for that matter!). Frida Gianni for Gucci is absolutely genius this season, while Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton left me with a wish list that will most certainly be left unfulfilled with those price points…On the other hand, Betsey Johnson can be a bit too wild and wacky for my figure, and Alexander Wang’s (I absolutely love his stuff, don’t get me wrong!!!) androgynous designs are not flattering on my short frame.

  4. Amen, sister. Humanism–not feminism.

  5. Interesting, although I feel that most of my favourite designers are moslty male designers, I believe that you don’t need to be a woman to understand how to dress one well, and vice versa- a great male designer doesn’t necessarily need to be a man. I designed men’s suits years ago & loved it, there are also many men’s wear designers who make incredible styles that are produced by women. I think having the talent, passion, & understanding of the body is what matters, not the gender of the maker.

  6. Much more important is the designer’s ability to appreciate their client- flaws and all! From there the job is to translate that appreciation into thoughtful and unique designs. – I love this!!!!

    I don’t think that male or female come into this at all. Both genders have their talents and the secret is to get to know the ‘client’ – whether that be a male or a female. Every BODY is different, and the designer will know what fits in with their clients’ shape.

  7. so many times I heard (in documentaries) that the fashion industry is like it is now because of the men… what they mean by that is that models use to be a little bit more curvy and the designer clothes were made for curvy women… when men entered the fashion industry, they projected their own fantasy of the perfect body which is a little bit more like a young man body; straight, skinny, no curves… and started to design clothes that fit with that shape…

    I don’t necesserly say that I agree or not… I never researched if this was true… but it could make sense…

    now, are men or women better designers? I guess it depend on what you like!

  8. Agreed…There are indeed some men who I would let dress me any day of the week!

  9. Taking a look in my closet I must disagree….since majority of my clothes, shoes and purses are designed by men…..I do absolutely adore few women designers, but for me MEN win this one.

  10. Hmm, most interesting. I’ve got to say I tend to gravitate towards male designers’ works. (Maybe I prefer to live in a fairy tale world?) I’ve never thought of it before in a break down of genders: that’s probably a good thing!

  11. I agree with you that it has nothing to do with gender. And I love the idea of accentuating the positive rather than down playing the negative. Yes!

  12. I don’t think it has to do with gender either. I like both male and female designer’s fashions – it just depends on what the piece itself is!

  13. I’m going to have to agree with you and the others. Sure a designers own gender may influence their style but I don’t think it necessarily give them an advantage that negates designs by other genders.

  14. Gender is irrelevant. Many male designers understand the female form and Tom Ford was a great example xx

  15. This is such an interesting conversation, and really I don’t think gender really makes a designer better at dressing women. Some of my favorite designers are men – Tom Ford, Oscar de la Renta, Adam Lippes, Michael Kors, Elie Tahari – and I feel like they understand a woman’s shape perfectly. Men like Oscar and Ford especially seem to capture the importance of shape and spirit in their designs, which makes them so appealing. But at the same time, I love the girl’s girl designers like Donna Karan, Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera and Cynthia Rowley. But I don’t think their appeal is simply because they are women. They all just have a passionate interest in dressing women and I think that passion is really the most important factor in the whole equation!

  16. I’m a very strong proponent of the “we’ve got gender all wrong” school of thinking. After all, sex is biology, and gender is internal identity. I’m intentionally as subversive as possible. If asked for a sex, I will, of course, mark M. If I am asked for a gender I write something like, “none of your business.”

    I pray for the day when we will all point and laugh at the very idea that someone’s way of thinking (such as design) could be based on their genitals. It will be as ridiculous as the earth revolving around the sun. It’s beyond time that we stop these silly “battle of the sexes” type things that suggest there are inherent differences between men because they are men and women because they are women. There’s not. There are only differences between individuals.

    …this is a pretty significant pet peeve of mine.

  17. Heh. Teach me to rant without proofreading. As sill has the SUN revolving around the EARTH.


  18. I think what she said was pretty sexist and it must stem from insecurity.

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