Norma Kamali on Ending Female Objectification

April 23, 2018
Updated 2mo ago

The fashion designer Norma Kamali, 72, has experienced the ebb and flow of the feminist movement for decades.

“We scream a lot and then we hit a wall and we scream a lot and we hit a wall,” said Kamali in an interview Monday with Cheddar. The only way to avoid repeating that loop: “We have to speak to men.”

Only through dialogue will feminists be able to be turn their activism into real change, she said, adding, “we have to say ‘what are your fears? We don’t want to take your power, we want to share the power with you.'"

Kamali launched the “Stop Objectification” campaign in 2012 to spur change in the fashion industry, which she said has historically thrived on objectifying women.

In an interview with Teen Vogue, Kamali said the campaign was in part inspired by her own experience being objectified. During her first job interview, she told the magazine, “the man interviewing me asked me to put my portfolio down and turn around for him."

Last year, news media investigations exposed the inappropriate ー and possibly illegal ー behavior a number of powerful men, including the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The exposure of such predatory behavior gave rise to the widespread #MeToo movement, in which women shared their stories of harassment as a form of empowerment.

Kamali said that women's stories are helping men and women discuss the issues of gender equality and workplace conduct with a more open mind, doing away with preconceived notions of what a man or a woman should do based on traditional gender roles.

“There isn’t a handbook,” she said. “You don’t have to open a door for women, we’re totally OK with opening the doors ourselves. We want respect and we want to share that respect with men.”

The designer who invented the sleeping bag coat celebrated 50 years in the fashion industry earlier this year. She says designers of the future will stay relevant by adapting to more automated supply chains and finding creative ways to engage with customers.

For the full interview, click here.