Donna Karan faced backlash for defending Harvey Weinstein, by suggesting women who faced sexual harassment were “asking for it” by dressing provocatively.
The Parsons alum who now sits on the school’s board of governors was asked about the allegations against Weinstein on the red carpet for the CinéFashion film awards on Sunday, the same day Weinstein, a powerful movie producer, was fired from his company after the New York Times wrote that he has paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades.
“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,” Karan said.
Since the Times article was published, three women have come forward and accused Weinstein of rape, according to The New Yorker.
The prominent womenswear designer, who was awarded an honorary New School degree in 2007, questioned whether the clothing women wear could indicate if they were “asking for it.”
“I think we have to look at ourselves,” she said at the Los Angeles event. “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.”
This summer, three Parsons fashion students joined Karan’s brand Urban Zen in Haiti to collaborate with local artisans at the Design, Organization, Training Center there.
“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?” the designer also said on the red carpet on Sunday night.
After receiving public backlash on Twitter — including from one of Weinstein’s accusers, Rose McGowan who called Karan “scum in a fancy dress” — Karan apologized for her statements.
Donna Karan you are a DEPLORABLE Aiding and abetting is a moral crime. You are scum in a fancy dress pic.twitter.com/Vze7lnpdvj
— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) October 10, 2017
“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,” Karan said. “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.”
Karan denounced sexual harassment as unacceptable and apologized to anyone she offended, including “everyone that has ever been a victim.”
The New School’s website says Karan is “one of Parsons’ most committed graduates, [as she] has offered her time, talents, and resources in myriad ways, serving on committees, hiring graduates, and advising the community broadly.”
In 2012, she was an honoree at the annual Parsons Benefit and the Donna Karan Fashion Design and Society Scholarship Fund was announced to support students in Parsons’ graduate fashion program. Karan was again honored at the 2016 Parsons Benefit.
Communications officials with The New School declined to comment on Karan’s remarks.