March 9, 2010, - 2:53 pm
It’s Paris Fashion Week, where all the top high class designers show their stuff on the runways of France’s fashion center. And on the “Marketplace” front page of today’s Wall Street Journal, there’s a story about LVMH, the haute couture investment company that owns Louis Vitton, Moet, and Hennessy brands, among other names synonymous with expensive taste. LVMH also owns the French fashion design house, Celine, and the story is about LVMH’s turnaround of the financially troubled brand.
Pregnant Designer Phoebe Philo Left Investors Holding the Bag
But that story isn’t important. What’s important–and what struck me–is the brief reference to the new fashion designer, Phoebe Philo, whom LVMH hired to turn the Celine brand around. Philo is the symbol of why and how feminism doesn’t work. She’s the spokesmodel for “no, women, you cannot have it all, but if you insist on it, someone will pay the price.” In this case, those paying the price are investors in Chloe, the French fashion label for which Ms. Philo previously designed.
For five years, the British Phoebe Philo designed clothing for Chloe, another expensive brand whose price tags say only the very rich need try the clothes on. As head designer at Chloe, she created a popular purse, the Paddington bag and developed a huge following, more than doubling its sales. But all of this took place only via huge investment from Chloe’s financiers, who’ve since lost out. You see, Ms. Philo decided to quit suddenly, taking two years off to focus on raising her family. And this week, Fashion Week, the company is on its third head designer since Philo quit. It’s not working out.
That Philo picked her kids over her job is laudable, but then, that’s also the problem with women in the workplace. They knew they wanted a family, and yet they entered the workforce anyway. Ultimately, the women will either do the right thing and leave to raise their kids–leaving an employer and investors holding the bag after shelling out money and other resources to train them and invest in their careers. Or the women will continue to work and leave the raising of their kids to daycare centers, as greedy and selfish Obama U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Barbara McQuade, does. Either way someone suffers–the employer or the kids. Never the woman who, inevitably, put one of them in this position.
With Ms. Philo, she’s decided to return, not to the company that invested much money and resources into promoting her and her fashion designs, but to a new company, which will now make even more accomodations so this mother can work. LVMH agreed to build a design studio in London, where she lives. And it is making other concessions. Still, her kids will suffer. Being a high-powered fashion designer is a lot of work, a lot of long hours. Either her kids will be neglected or her fashions.
And that’s the story even with a highly-paid executive (which is, ultimately, what a head designer is). The case is even worse with the average mom seeking a job. She won’t–and shouldn’t get (if a company wants to survive with a decent bottom line)–these luxuriant concessions. And what happens when Philo, again, leaves to raise her kids (they couldn’t possibly have grown to adulthood in two short years)? Well, the company will suffer and lose its investment in her.
Sorry, women, you cannot have it all. And if you insist on it, someone other than you ultimately loses. Your family or your employer.
Tags: British, Celine, Chloe, daycare, Feminism, London, LVMH, motherhood, Phoebe Philo, someone pays the price, working mothers, you can't have it all