Donna Karan backs Weinstein, suggests sexily dressed women are ‘asking for it’

Donna Karan backs Weinstein, suggests sexily dressed women are ‘asking for it’

After backlash, fashion designer says her statements about provocative clothing and presentation taken out of context, apologizes to victims

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of DKNY founder and fashion designer Donna Karan. (YouTube/Reserve Channel)
Screen capture from video of DKNY founder and fashion designer Donna Karan. (YouTube/Reserve Channel)

A top fashion designer appeared to defend Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in the face of a slew of sexual harassment allegations, suggesting that women allegedly preyed upon by the now-disgraced producer were “asking for it” by dressing provocatively.

As celebrity condemnation of her comments gained momentum, DKNY fashion house founder Donna Karan later said her comments were taken out of context, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.

Weinstein, 65, was fired Sunday by the Weinstein Co., the studio he co-founded, three days after a bombshell New York Times expose alleged decades of crude sexual behavior on his part toward female employees and actresses. The Times said at least eight settlements had been reached with women.

On Sunday evening, Karan gave an interview on the red carpet at the CinéFashion Film Awards during which she was asked about Weinstein, her longtime friend, and the allegations against him, the Daily Mail reported.

“I think we have to look at our world and what we want to say and how we want to say it,” she was quoted saying. “It’s not Harvey Weinstein, you look at everything all over the world today, you know how women are dressing, and what they are asking, by just presenting themselves they way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.”

Speaking generally of the poor treatment of women around the world, Karan added: “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 we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?”

Harvey Weinstein attending the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s National Tribute Dinner in Beverly Hills, Calif., March 24, 2015. (Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images, via JTA)

“I don’t think it’s only Harvey Weinstein. I don’t think we’re only looking at him. I think we’re looking at a world much deeper than that,” continued Karan, who is Jewish. “Yes, I think he’s being looked at right now as a symbol, not necessarily as him. I know his wife, I think they’re wonderful people, Harvey has done some amazing things. I think we have to look at our world and what we want to say and how we want to say it as well.”

Social media users quickly went on the attack and shared advertisements for Karan’s clothing line featuring women in revealing attire and photos of celebrities wearing her more risque designs.

Overnight Monday-Tuesday, Karan sent a statement to the Daily Mail in which she said her comments were “taken out of context.”

“Last night, I was honored at the Cinemoi 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,” she 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,” the statement said.

“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.”

Television news anchor Rose McGowan, an alleged victim of Weinstein, tweeted that Karan was “deplorable.”

“Aiding and abetting is a moral crime,” she wrote.”You are scum in a fancy dress.”

McGowan had previously sued Weinstein in the 1990s but settled out of court for $100,000 and signed a a nondisclosure agreement.

Actresses Mia Farrow and Sarah Wynter also condemned Karan, with the former saying she would boycott the designer’s clothes.

“No more Donna Karan for me,” Farrow wrote.

“Donna Karan just single handedly [sic] ruined her career and any chance of being respected as a champion of women’s causes ever again. Wow.” tweeted Wynter.

Under Weinstein’s leadership, the Weinstein Co. has been a dominant force at the Oscars. It accomplished the rare feat of winning back-to-back best picture Academy Awards with “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.”

In recent years, however, Weinstein’s status has diminished because of money shortages, disappointing box-office returns and executive departures.

His other movie credits over the years include “Pulp Fiction” and “The English Patient.”

Since the Times article, more accounts of predatory behavior have followed.

In a HuffPost report, TV anchor Lauren Sivan detailed an alleged 2007 encounter with Weinstein. Sivan, then working at a New York cable channel, said Weinstein cornered her in the hallway of a New York City restaurant closed to the public and masturbated in front of her.

The swift fall of one of Hollywood’s most powerful figures has turned up the pressure on many in the industry to speak out.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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