Donna Karan Apologizes for Victim Blaming Weinstein Comments: ‘I Regret It So Strongly’

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Last week, fashion designer Donna Karan suggested, in a red carpet interview about
her associate Harvey Weinstein, that women are asking to be
sexually harassed based on the way they dress. In the
interview, which was caught on tape, she said among other
things, “What are they asking for? Trouble.”

The condemnation was swift, from people pointing out her
apparent hypocrisy (she is a longtime advocate for women’s
issues; she has designed and shown sexualized clothing and
advertisements) to stocks tanking for G-III, the corporation
that owns her namesake brand. (Karan stepped down from Donna Karan and DKNY in
2015.) In an official statement released
on Tuesday, Karan said that her interview had been “taken out
of context”:

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.

Today, WWD has run a lengthy interview with Karan
by Bridget Foley, the publication’s executive editor. In it, an
“embarrassed” Karan apologized profusely multiple times for
what she said, but also blamed her comments on being tired and
jet-lagged.

Karan told Foley that, when she was asked about the accusations
against Weinstein—her friend, along with his wife/Marchesa
designer Georgina Chapman—she didn’t know about the extent of
the stories, saying at that point she had only “heard them in
such bits and cracked pieces.”

D.K.: So the fact of what I said was — it
was inappropriate and I just went off. And I shouldn’t have
done it. I was exhausted, I was tired and — [when] it came
back to me, I was shocked that I even said this myself.
Because I was preparing in my mind what I was going to say in
the theater. And I just went off on something that I
shouldn’t have, and I apologize profusely. I regret it so
strongly.

I think every woman who knows me, and I have [worked for]
them in all sizes and all shapes, all I do is want women
being free to express themselves. And that has nothing to do
with being disrespected, molested and harassed. Absolutely
not.

Foley admirably presses Karan on her contradictions and refuses
to let the narrative shift, particularly the couple times when
Karan brings up her “work in Haiti” and efforts for more gun
control. Foley also asked Karan to explain herself multiple
times, and to reckon with the way her comments reflected on her
history as a designer and a woman’s advocate:

I always have had real women presenting
themselves because I feel so strongly about women. No matter
what size you are, no matter what body type you have, as a
woman, I have believed in women. I can’t fit in the clothes
today. I dress myself and [other] women and allow them to be
sensual.

WWD: When you say you can’t fit the clothes today, do
you mean the clothes of other designers that are largely out
there across fashion?

D.K.: Yes.

WWD: For the record, you would agree that no matter
what you or I or a hot 20-year-old wears, no one has the
right to harass any woman at any time?

D.K.: With. Out. A. Doubt. Without a doubt.
For that matter, it is never OK to disrespect another human
being.

And don’t forget the work I do in Haiti. The woman that I had
giving me the award, Maria Bello, I mean, her major, major
statement in life is about women.

There’s a lot more, and personally it left me feeling a bit
warm, a bit cold; it’s very clear that Karan is contrite, but
being tired doesn’t necessarily square with just dropping some
victim-blaming comments out of the blue. However, when “she was
asking for it” is the going justification—the most prevalent
ethos of the rape culture, really—I suppose it’s possible that
someone’s subconscious can have absorbed it enough to repeat
that phrase with a robotic lack of thought. And Foley
seems to believe that Karan is sincere in her apology, which is
indeed profuse and seems to be coming from a good place. Either
way, though, it seems fairly likely that we won’t see any Donna
Karan on the carpet during Oscars season.

Read a partial interview here and,
with a subscription, the full one here.

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