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Comme il faut – where ethics is not just a brand image but a brand essence. Reflections of the CEO

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Abstract:

Comme il faut is an Israeli high-end fashion house of women's fashion that was established in 1987 by Carole Godin and Sybil Goldfiner. It has developed a business model that combines traditional business management, the purpose of which is to generate revenue and continuous growth, with management on the basis of feminist values and a responsibility to contribute to the creation of a better world, a more just world, for women and for all. This mission runs through all aspects of the company's operation: in terms of production it consists of designing clothes that respect women's bodies and that fit a wide range of bodies, producing high-quality clothes to last with the finest quality materials, and of paying living wages to workers who make them locally. In terms of the company's relationships with its stakeholders, it is run as a flat shared (and non-hierarchical) structure. Its management assures that suppliers are not squeezed to subsistence level, that employees receive a share of the company's profits, and that the premises are run in an environmentally friendly way. In terms of retail – the company's discourse is anti-hegemonic in that it produces images and messages that subvert the industry's standard that builds on a seduction model that is tailored to the patriarchal gaze. This is complemented by social activism initiatives that are regularly pursued and that reflect the company's commitment to an ethical feminist outlook. 'The Giving List' in the UK newspaper The Guardian, which orders FTSE 100 companies by the percentage of pre-tax profits contributed to charitable causes, showed in 2004 and 2006 that the charitable contributions of FTSE's 100 companies (including gifts in kind, staff time devoted to charitable causes and related management costs) averaged around 1% of pre-tax profits, with the highest spenders (e.g. GlaxoSmithKline and the Cooperative group) spending 2.41% and 5% of pre-tax profit, respectively. In contrast, comme il faut, a household name in Israeli fashion but not a global player, invests 10% of its profits. Finally, the collective spirit of the fashion house is reinforced by the design model that employs house designers, but does not build a personality cult of the celebrity designer. As the CEO of the company – I explain how the company developed and raise important ethical issues about the possibility of having a fashion business with a committed feminist agenda.

Keywords: corporate social responsibility; fashion ethics; feminist business; feminist fashion; globalization; patriarchal gaze; subversive

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/csfb.2.1-2.83_1

Affiliations: CEO of Comme il faut

Publication date: 2011-12-22

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