Following comments the designer made Sunday night that seemed to support Weinstein — and which she later retracted — celebrities immediately criticized Karan, with some calling for a boycott of her clothes even though she is no longer involved in her label, which is now owned by G-III Apparel Group.
The morning shows weighed in on the Karan controversy Tuesday, particularly her comments that women may be inviting “trouble” based on how they dress.
On NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today,” Kelly said, “Unfortunately, [Donna Karan] is not the only one who apparently thinks this way and it is wrong. It’s seriously wrong. Let’s be perfectly clear right now: Women sometimes make bad fashion choices, including at the office. This does not invite their own harassment. Period. End of report.”
Kelly, who herself was caught up in the sexual harassment controversy at Fox News involving Roger Ailes, continued, “There are laws in this country. Laws. I don’t give a damn if a woman shows up in a bikini to the office, that doesn’t invite or make it OK for her superior to harass her. It makes it OK for her boss to say, ‘Go home and change.’ That’s it. The truth is, sexual harassment has nothing to do with wardrobe. It has to do with power and control and sexual proclivities that a superior chooses not to rein in.
“How insulting, by the way, to men as well. Like they are a bunch of animals who can’t behave themselves if a woman shows part of their thigh. Right? This attitude of blaming women for their own harassment is actually one of the reasons why women choose not to come forward after they get harassed because they fear victim shaming. They fear it. They know it’s going to happen. How about we not pile it on, Donna. How about we use this moment to encourage women to find their own voices despite the risks and to stand up for themselves, which is hard enough, without rich, powerful, well-connected fashion moguls lecturing them on their clothing choices. And speaking of fashion choices, here’s one for you. I’m done with Donna Karan.”
Rose McGowan, one of the actresses who settled with Weinstein, tweeted about Karan’s initial remarks: “Donna Karan you are a deplorable. Aiding and abetting is a moral crime. You are scum in a fancy dress.”
Anthony Bourdain, the chef, author and TV personality and boyfriend of Asia Argento, an actress who has accused Weinstein of rape, tweeted, “@dkny How many seventeen-year-olds have you dressed like they are, in your words, ‘asking for it?’”
The disgraced movie mogul has been tangentially involved in the fashion world for years as a producer of “Project Runway,” a failed attempt to revive Halston with Sarah Jessica Parker, and licensing (with an option to buy) Charles James, although he hasn’t done anything with it. He is also married to Georgina Chapman, codesigner of Marchesa, the eveningwear and bridal line that has been worn by numerous Hollywood actresses on the red carpet, although he’s not an investor. Chapman issued a statement to People Tuesday night saying she was leaving Weinstein and that caring for her young children is her first priority.
But Karan tumbled head-first into the Weinstein scandal at Cinémoi’s CinéFashion Film Awards event in Hollywood. She told the U.K.’s Daily Mail that sexually harassed women may be “asking for it” by dressing seductively. “You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble,” she told the Daily Mail in a red carpet interview.
During the Hollywood event Sunday night, Karan had expounded on the Weinstein situation, saying, “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 you asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?”
Karan said she is a personal friend of Weinstein’s wife and described the couple as “wonderful people,” adding, “Harvey has done some amazing things.” Asked by the Daily Mail if Weinstein had been “busted,” she reportedly smiled and told the paper, “I don’t think it’s only Harvey Weinstein.”
On Sunday night, Weinstein was fired from his company, The Weinstein Co., over reports of sexual harassment complaints against him, first reported in The New York Times. On Tuesday, there were more revelations when actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Rosanna Arquette admitted that Weinstein had made sexual advances to them during their careers, joining a litany of complaints from women who have accused the film mogul of sexual harassment and rape. The New Yorker came out with a well-researched story by Ronan Farrow on Tuesday, as well.
Within hours of Karan’s comments Sunday, her publicists were backpedaling with PR Consulting issuing a statement from Karan on Monday that read: “Last night, I was honored at the Cinémoi Fashion Film Awards in Hollywood and while answering a question on the red carpet, I made a statement that unfortunately is not representative of how I feel or what I believe. I have spent my life championing women. My life has been dedicated to dressing and addressing the needs of women, empowering them and promoting equal rights. 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,” Karan said.
Having heard Karan’s apology, Kelly said, “I want her to come on and we can have an honest discussion of how she really feels.” The talk show host said she’d like to talk about whether Karan’s comments were taken out of context “because the messaging to women is all wrong.”
G-III also felt the backlash, especially with the calls for a boycott of the Karan brands. The company’s stock was hit in early-morning trading, but managed to rise 0.51 percent Tuesday to close at $27.75 on the NASDAQ. In 2015, Karan stepped away from the company bearing her name, but continues to design for her own company, Urban Zen. G-III bought Donna Karan International in December 2016 from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and the first DKNY and Donna Karan collections under G-III’s ownership arrived in stores this fall.
Morris Goldfarb, chairman and chief executive officer of G–III, declined comment on Tuesday about Karan’s comments.
With Weinstein’s sexual misconduct serving as a reminder of the ongoing prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace, former Fox news anchor and women’s advocate Gretchen Carlson on Wednesday is unveiling the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative to empower women across the nation who have experienced gender-based violence, discrimination or harassment. It will launch in November 2017 in partnership with Lauren Leader-Chivée and the All in Together Campaign, a nonpartisan national women’s organization committed to women’s political, civic and professional leadership in the U.S.
Subha Barry, senior vice president and managing director of Working Mother Media and Diversity Best Practices, observed about the Weinstein situation, “This kind of behavior is inexcusable, and women are stepping out in large numbers to speak out against him. This is an opportunity to step up, and how do we ensure that while this is happening in workplaces — and I promise you this is still happening today, maybe not someone as high profile as Harvey — how do we begin to change cultures where this is unacceptable, irrespective of whether you’re a small business owner or you’re running a multibillion dollar conglomerate?
“Harvey Weinstein talking about remorse, being contrite, apologizing is the right way. He has a long journey to making it right and fixing what he did and changing his behavior and becoming perhaps someone who will be an advocate, ally and supporter and someone who turns it around. In my mind, there’s absolutely no excuse for what he did. None. The fact that he apologizes, is the right thing for him to have done and now the hard work begins,” she said.