Hanim Dogan-Jain


Have you noticed that the most famous top designers, brands and CEO’s like Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Bernard Arnault are all men? So, where are all the women in fashion? Do women have the same opportunities as men when climbing the ladder in the fashion industry? Is there equality in salaries and promotions? Can you easily combine a successful career whilst having a family too? We are living in the 21st century and still talking about basic human rights?

The fashion industry is like a pyramid. On the bottom of triangle, women fill the ranks in the fashion business as sales assistants, buyers, merchandisers and models. Then in the middle of the pyramid, men start appearing. Filling positions as middle managers of brands and retail organisations. Getting to the top, we really have to search hard to find a woman.Having lived and worked in many countries around the world, the position of women in the fashion industry has many different faces. I will share with you my own experiences and observations. Funnily enough, some very obvious situations are not that obvious.

The Western world versus the rest of the world for example. I grew up in a Western society, the Netherlands but have roots in an Asian country, Turkey. So, from an early age on I was able to observe the cultural differences in families, societies, schools and in businesses. A culture of a country can be very liberal and democratic but on the work floor this culture can look completely different.

In Turkey, there is still a huge gap in inequality and opportunities for working women but when it comes to the top positions, it suddenly gives us a whole new perspective. Turkey had the highest percentage of female chairpersons; women occupy 11.1% of the country’s chairman roles.(* 2015) In the years when I worked at “de Bijenkorf”, the luxury chain department stores in Holland, the pyramid structure was definitely in place. In stores as well as at the head office, making it to the top as a woman was not easy. Making it to the top as an “immigrant” woman was even more difficult.

Yes, the Dutch are very easy going, informal, open and direct. In business they are pretty straightforward which can feel intimidating if you are not used to it. Being in a top position as a woman can be sometimes intimidating for men as well.

Once upon a time in my early years, my boss, an older experienced gentleman, gave me feedback during a performance review. He told me I was doing a good job but I only had to behave more vulnerable towards my team. The majority of my team members were men. I had to show my emotions by being more delicate. At the time, I actually felt slightly insulted. I thought just because I am a woman he used these words. He would have never used the same words to a man. Why does he treat me differently? Why am I judged about my behaviour and emotions instead of evaluating my work results?

I don’t remember exactly I replied to him but I am sure my reply was not what I actually had in my head. Now looking back at it, I wish I were more experienced and mature enough to ask him these questions. Of course, I was too scared to talk about my real thoughts since I knew that to reach the top I needed to work harder than the men and not make a fuss about any inequalities.

Years later, I had another interesting encounter at C&A, one of the biggest fashion retail companies in Europe. My manager – a man (again) who worked all his life for the Brennikmeyer family who owns C&A. He was old school, control freak and had his own way of doing business. Having me in his team was not an easy job I figured out. I was young, ambitious and had given up a very lucrative life in IT to follow her passion. Nothing would stand in my way or stop me from reaching my dreams. Not even this manager. I worked very hard, had brilliant new ideas and was confrontational. His way of disapproving my “female” ambition was to give me a very bad performance review and lay an official complaint about me to the director. He was determined to have me kicked out of the company because I did not fit his “woman” profile as a colleague. It really got to me. I could not understand how I got myself in this situation. I started to blame myself. Like most women do. I became insecure and felt betrayed by the company who headhunted me to accept this job. Nobody backed me up. I was in a lower position again a middle manager guy so who would care about me? Well someone did! It was a “she…” my dear female director and board member! She probably saw me struggling and maybe saw some potential in me for the future. Thanks to her support, I was transferred to a different department and got even a more fun job to do. I am so grateful up until today as she really saved my career and my life. I am where I am today because of what she showed me that time. She gave back my confidence. The rest is history.

As I am not the only one with these kinds of stories, I have started a global foundation called “Women in Fashion”. Guess what, the lady who helped me years ago, is now my co-founder.

  • Our vision is a world in which women have the opportunity, support and resources to thrive as entrepreneurs and professionals in the fashion industry.
  • Women in Fashion exists to break the “glass runway “ in the fashion industry by supporting and empowering.
  • Women in Fashion exists to promote the full and equal participation of women at every level in the fashion industry.
  • We are dedicated to achieving gender equality and to eliminating barriers to give opportunity for women in the fashion industry.
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My wardrobe is full of clothes and I still have days I don’t know what to wear! The most important period of the year is approaching, the time for dressing up and stunning in your party outfits. What are you going to wear for Christmas and New Year’s? In our daily life, the pressure is already high for women to look good and to be slim. But this pressure increases during the festive season. We have obligations to attend to, family dinner gatherings, company functions or Christmas and New Year events.

It is a very busy period of socialising and “get togethers” for everyone. Some functions might be more formal while others are informal. They all have one thing in common though… you have to look fabulous! Here, I am going to try to give you a few tips on how to look amazing, glamorous and fashionable. First of all, you look as good as you feel. Your exterior is a reflection of your inner self. Do not underestimate the value of your self confidence. In my opinion, you can wear old clothes but still make them look like a million bucks. As a businesswoman who has worked in fashion for more than 25 years, I sincerely believe in this principle.

No matter what brand or designer item you wear, if you wear it without confidence, you will not rock that piece of art! Before you read any further please reflect on this first principle. Where are you on the self-confidence spectrum? More importantly, how can you improve it? Work consciously on a daily basis and step-by-step you will increase your confidence level. If you find it hard or you don’t know where to start, get yourself a mentor or a coach. Investing in yourself is going to boost your confidence because now you are going to give yourself the time and effort you deserve. You are worth it.

Once you have tackled the confidence issue, the rest is easy! Your self-confidence is the foundation of the house and the other tools I am going to give you will help you to build further. The second most important challenge we face as women is our body. More precisely, the shape of our body and everything that comes with it. There is a deep discontentment about the proportions or the look of our body and face. You can be Miss Universe or a top model and still feel unhappy about some aspect of your physical exterior. It can be the length, the width, the colour, the shape, the texture of any of your body parts.

I have seen the most beautiful models in the world depressed about their, in my opinion, perfect bodies. Your body is the temple of your soul. So, if the soul is unhappy and restless, your body will never feel good either. Now you might understand why I started with the first principle “self-confidence”. A few tips, tricks and tools about how to handle your body… In order to find the perfect solution, you need to know beforehand “what is your shape”?

The fashion business defines five different body shapes:

• Apple

• Pear

• Triangle

• Rectangle

• Hourglass

The body shape infographic below is a general guideline. When you classify yourself, be realistic and honest with yourself. Your body is what you see now and not what you want it to be. Ask for advice from a partner, a good friend or a professional if you are not 100% sure. Research online and find the shapes that fit your body type. There are different shapes for different garments like dresses, skirts, trousers, tops, etc. Also look at lengths that go better with a certain body type. Do not worry if that particular length or shape is not a trend this season. Fashion

means: “what suits you the best”. If you emphasise your body strengths and use the garments suited for your specific body type, you will look stylish anyway! Now you know your body type or shape. Let’s go to the next essential tool: colour. I want to ask, what is your favourite colour? Answer this question for yourself and then walk to your wardrobe. Look at your clothes, footwear, bags and accessories. How many items do you have in your favourite colour? Not many, right? During most of my workshops either for corporate employees or for individuals, I receive a very similar response. We, including myself, do not wear enough of our favourite colour. My most favourite colour is red. I love the warmth and energy that colour gives me. But when I open my wardrobe, I have only one or two red dresses and maybe two tops, one red pair of shoes, one bag and zero red jewellery! Of course, a few red lipsticks. Does that count?

Here are the main colours and their meanings:

Why is it crucial to wear the colour we love the most? Because that colour is going to give you the radiance, the energy that makes you glow. If something makes you feel good then it will definitely look good too! Reflect on why a certain colour is your favourite colour. What does it mean for you? With what do you associate it? Women especially have a favourite colour for one reason or another.

When I think about my Mine, I remember the conversations I had with my girlfriends in primary school. We would ask each other frequently which colour we liked the most. Then we would copy each other or change the colour because our best friend had chosen that one. We also had to explain to each other why we choose that specific colour. As I grew up with two sisters, we also talked a lot at home about our favourite colours. I guess that is what girls do.

When I had my daughter and she started talking at the age of 2, I would ask her about her favourite colour, food, animal etc. This question is part of raising a child and a growing up ritual. Get to know your colours and choose which one you like the most. How to wear your favourite colour? This is the trickiest question. Let’s say you are not such a flamboyant person, maybe even a bit shy but your favourite colour is red. Will you ever dare to wear a red dress for example? Probably not.

My advice would be to wear red as an accent colour in your accessories. It could be a scarf, belt, necklace, handbag or even shoes. The other option is to wear it in an outfit combination and together with a “safer” colour. For example, wear a red blouse with black trousers. So, when you start wearing and using your favourite colour in your outfits, does it mean you can ignore fashion colours? As a fashion professional, of course I have to say no! The fashion colours are only important for a certain period of time and you will find many clothing items popping up in that specific colour during that time window.

I would only advise you to try one or two items in a fashion colour of the moment but not buy your whole wardrobe just in that trendy colour. Also, when a designer or a buyer defines the colour palette for next season’s collection, they will select a whole colour portfolio and not concentrate on one hot colour. From a business point of view, this is very risky and will generally lead to low sales. When it comes to colour, do not get carried away with what you might see on the catwalk shows as this does not always reflect what is available in the stores.

Last but not least, a tool neglected by many people is fabric. I could write a whole separate article about fabrics since this topic is fascinating. Recently with all the latest technology developments, a whole new area of possibilities has opened up. In addition, on a topic very close to my heart, sustainability and recycling, more and more natural fabrics are being created from plants and even fruits. I am often astonished when I come across certain people in the industry who have such little knowledge about fabrics.

Even some designers have not been taught about crucial nuances of fabrics and the fabrics’ impact on body shapes. Of course, as a fashion consumer you can educate yourself about fabrics and actually you must educate yourself. Fabrics can give you what your body shape needs. Fabrics sometimes define colours too. For example, you cannot get linen in every colour. Fabrics define what you should wear in a certain climate or should avoid in a certain climate. In a hot and humid climate like Thailand, wearing cotton makes sense.

On the other hand, wearing polyester can be suffocating. Yet, I do come across may garments and clothing brands that sell mainly polyester here in Thailand. Obviously, it is a financial matter too. Natural fabrics are simply more expensive, although the price of cotton garments has come down a lot over the years. The last few practical tips… when looking for your next fabulous, festive outfit, consider tailor made garments. Living in Thailand gives you the best opportunity to have a personal styled item made according to your specifications and your unique body shape for very reasonable prices! What a luxury to have.

There are plenty of talented tailors in Bangkok. You do need to get references and again the most important factor is choosing the right fabric! Where to shop? In luxury shopping malls, tourist markets or online? Well, this is what we call omni-channel in the retail fashion business. As a consumer you have so many sales channels to choose from. It can be overwhelming sometimes but on the other hand it gives you so much more power as a consumer. My advice would be to try different channels, be adventurous and find out what channel works best for you. Have a fabulous shopping time and I am sure you will look absolutely stunning!


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Running between deadlines for a Autumn/Winter ready-to wear collection, a shopping to trip to London to spot the next season trends, preparing a restructuring plan for a board meeting, approving a social media marketing event for our newest brand campaign and attending a Fashion show at the Australian Embassy. Do you recognise this person behind the role? This “role” of a businesswoman is only one of the roles I have to execute on a daily basis. Of course, I also have the duties and responsibilities of a mother, a spouse, a housekeeper, an administrator, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a mentor etc.

While I execute all the above mentioned work duties, I also call home to give instructions to the nanny, email the teacher about our child’s homework, app my spouse to ask about his meeting, texted my mum to see if she is recovered from her health issue….. How do I do that? Well that’s a good question. When I reflect on it, I realise it happens almost automatically.

Are we “programmed” as women? Do we learn it in our early years? From whom do we learn, at school or at home? One recent case popped into my head while writing these lines. It was during an exhausting long business meeting. I was involved in a large-scale strategic turnaround project for a luxury fashion brand. We had to present to the shareholders. I was one of the presenters and suddenly my mobile started beeping. Although as a leader, I insist to turn off mobile phones during internal meetings with my team, I somehow had forgotten my own rule. As I saw our youngest daughter’s number on the screen, I apologetically touched the screen and put the phone to my ear. Since she has a GPS watch phone for urgent matters I felt my heart beating faster. On the other side of the line, our 7 year old daughter asked “Mummy can I eat mushroom soup please?”

I guess children do make us feel “normal” again and bring us back to what is really important in life. Namely, eating mushroom soup! Kids are brilliant in teaching us when you need to put things in perspective. Personally, I always turn into a better mood when I engage with our daughter after returning from work. Especially if it was a very tough day. I love playing, listening or just sitting in her room and being in the moment. Nevertheless, as a woman, I do feel guilty sometimes if I have to take time off during work (even now when I am my own boss) to do errands around our children.

Talking about this topic with my husband, who is in the fashion industry too, I realise he does not always share the same dilemma. For him, it is simple. You are either at work or with your children. Black and white. Why feel guilty? During my upbringing, I had many challenges. One of them was, being from an immigrant family (my parents moved from Turkey to the Netherlands in the early 70s), we all had to work harder to get where we wanted to be. Since we were “disadvantaged” in areas like language and social status, we had to prove ourselves even more to show that we were the “same”.

At school, in social circles and later in our professional careers. So, because being the “same” has been extremely critical and being accepted as an equal, I do feel guilty if I act “different” then my men colleagues. Now, at this stage in my life where I have been living and working in many parts of the world as an expat, I see clearly the same behaviour with lots of other professional women across different countries or cultures. I am not alone…… No matter what social status, religion, culture, profession or education, we women do have a sense of guilt when juggling between work and family.

An extremely important factor, which helps me to cope with different roles and responsibilities, is the unconditional support of my husband. Since he is an executive himself in the global fashion industry for more than 30 years, he knows as no other, the ins and outs of the business. Therefore, I do not have to explain or justify any work related obligation. On the contrary, he will encourage and advise me. Living an expat life for almost 25 years myself, I can only emphasise the necessity of a supporting partner, as there is no extended family support structure from parents, in-laws or siblings. Yes, luckily enough we do have the household support from housekeepers, nannies and drivers available.

I am very grateful for it too. Although, you need to manage them like you manage your staff at work (which is an additional job/role) they can take the load of some daily issues in order to survive a household were both parents are working. I would like to make a statement here that raising our children is our responsibility as parents and can never be passed on to other members of the household. I do have the convenience of passing on an ironing job but it will be me who takes our children to swimming lesson or to the park. The fashion industry is tough, very tough. Lots of women, gossip, competition, envy and elbow work. Strangely enough, all the top jobs, positions and executives are mostly occupied by men (like in most other industries).

Yes, even in the fashion industry. Look at the world’s most famous designers or successful CEO’s. They are men… Karl Lagerfeld. Valentino, Polo Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Bernard Arnault etc. How is this possible? Is it the complicated lifestyle of women trying to juggle between their private lives and demands of a career? Is it men in decision-making positions who are prejudgmental about capabilities of working women? When I started my career in the fashion business in Paris, I had just switched from being the founder of a successful IT company to a traineeship position at Karl Lagerfeld. My boss was the commercial director, a man, who informed me that the owner of our company, Karl himself, had invited all his staff including me to the Christmas dinner. Well I was so excited and honoured that I couldn’t believe I was going to meet one of the greatest designers and personalities in the industry finally.

Just a few hours before the Christmas party, I got a phone call from my boss, who informed me with regret that our CEO (his boss, a lady), did not want the lowest rank in the company, namely the trainees to join the dinner. So, I did not attend….. Would a man CEO have handled it differently? Being in a leading position now, I want to be a good role model. Specifically for the younger generation and for women around the world. I am able to practice what I always believed in. I can break the barriers that held me back and many before me. I do support and give my extra time to women who need a mentor. I share my stories to as many as possible because I hope to inspire or encourage women to be both successful at work and at home.

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Ever thought about pursuing a career in fashion? Or starting your own clothing or jewellery business? How about creating a new brand or product? What if you are in your 30s, 40s or even 50s and you would like to switch your current profession by entering the fashion industry? All of the above is possible. I did it and followed my passion. So can you…

At the age of 25 (now many moons ago!), I co-founded an IT software company just after my degree in Economics from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. My dream was always to start my own business, create jobs and contribute towards a better world. In my head, my father’s saying, “be a creator not only a consumer”, was the main driver behind my entrepreneurial spirit.

After working very, very hard, we managed to have a couple of successful years during the internet boom. Like so many others in the IT Industry at the time, we decided to sell our business in order to move on to the next challenge. By that time, I was in my early 30s. Although enjoying the IT world, I felt I was missing something more meaningful. Taking the time to reflect and contemplating what I wanted to do was a wise decision. It didn’t take long before I knew I had to go into fashion! Fashion has always been my passion but I had completely ignored it.

I grew up in an environment where you needed to pursue a “real” profession and get a degree that would help you to enter the employment market. Looking back, my initial study and my experience in ICT contributed significantly to where I am today in my life. Let’s get back to the decision making process of switching careers. Of course, I struggled with the thought of how am I going to cope with starting at the bottom and working my way up. Learning a new profession, diving into a new industry without prior experience, just a passion is not an easy journey. On top, I was used to being my own boss at my own company and later on running a team at an international corporation with many responsibilities.



Not to mention the financial consequences. Earning a decent income plus the comfortable lifestyle does not make it easier. On the contrary, it encourages your rational argumentsto win. When it comes to such a major step in my life, I tend to take a pen and paper so I can write down calmly the pros and cons on a list. Nevertheless, I gathered all the courage I had, put my ego aside and took the final call. In my case, I chose to do a course in fashion in Paris so that at least it would give me a theoretical framework. That course was a turning point as from there my career took off and I never looked back.

Of course, my journey into fashion has had and still has many challenges every day. At least now, I feel fulfilled and blessed that I am doing what I love to do. Therefore, I can cope easier and better with setbacks or obstacles, as they are learning curves for me. I keep focused on my goals and move on swiftly. My main goal is to make a difference and contribute towards development of women entrepreneurs. Therefore I recently founded the Women Entrepreneurs in Fashion (WEIF) platform, which aims to connect, inspire and empower women in the fashion industry all around the globe.

I have been so passionate about following your dream and inspiring others that I wrote down my story and shared my experiences in a book. This book is a guide for people that want to start a career in fashion or those who want to switch at later stage in their life. It explains in a simple and easy way ten steps you can take to enter the fashion world. Many successful professionals and entrepreneurs from all around the world have contributed towards this book as well. It gives you a global perspective and in any case it does not matter where you are in the world nowadays since technology has brought us all closer.

Here I will give you a few possible questions you might have in your head in case you want to pursue a successful career or set up your own business in the fashion business. I will answer them for you briefly.

1: What kinds of professions and jobs are there in fashion?

One huge misperception about the industry, I would like to explain here. Most of the time when people think about working in the fashion, they think about becoming a designer. Obviously, that might seem like a dream job but remember, not everyone is made to be Coco Chanel or Karl Lagerfeld. Do not be discouraged!

There are dozens of other incredible fascinating jobs and roles in the fashion world. So, in answering the question, I would like you to think first about your own passion. What makes your heart beat faster? Take the time and reflect on what you loved to do as a child. Most of us adults have hidden our dreams and passions in our subconsciousness. Allow it to come out now.

Here are a few examples of jobs, professions or business areas in fashion you can look into:
• Buying
• Sourcing
• Manufacturing/production
• Retail
• Logistics
• Ecommerce
• Editor/writer/journalist
• Law/finance
• Marketing/social media expert
• Supplier/agent Sometimes you might not know what your end job or work will be. Do not worry. You will find out what works for you along the road. I worked in many different areas within the global fashion business and it made me appreciate each part of the chain. But if you know your specialist ambition and you love to be a pattern maker your whole life, enjoy it! Most importantly be guided by your own choices and skills. Not by the expectations of other people.




“Do not go into fashion just because your think is all about glitter and glamour. You will be very disappointed. One thing I can guarantee you, no matter in which country you work, the fashion industry is tough, very tough. You must be in it for the long run, for the passion and for making a difference.”

2: What kind of training and education do I need?

Before I answer that question, I would like to share with you my view on “Do I need an education at all? I am a living example of a generation that made a significant improvement in life circumstances due to education. My role models were my parents who sacrificed a lot, so that their children could study. From a very young age, I was determined to achieve a degree and that paper would open up doors. It was a “must” in order to fulfil my dreams and goals.

Yes, I do believe in educating, training yourself and upgrading your knowledge. At any period or any age in your life. You truly are never too late to learn. How you learn and how you educate yourself is different for each individual. Some people love books, studying or reading. So they would go for a more theoretical learning process. In that case you would search for schools or courses that give you a foundation of fashion. Others love learning but feel more at ease with practical, on the job experiences. Getting back to the original question. “What” kind of education? In the information technology world (and sometimes even overload of information) we live in, you really can find an incredible wealth of education options.

First of all, you can decide if you would prefer to follow an education online or offline. Many countries around the globe have specialised education platforms for the fashion industry. There are a few top schools in fashion, which are located in cities like Paris, London, Milan or New York. If you are a starter then search for schools or education programmes that support a broad range of subjects. Unless you know very specific that you would like to become for example a fashion designer then find an education related to designing.

If you want to switch career from your existing industry to the fashion business then search for a link with the kind of work you want to do in the fashion industry. Would you want to become an international buyer then find studies or programmes specialised in buying. The kind of education also depends on your existing education level. Do you prefer part-time or full time? How much do you want to spend on the new education?

Do an extensive research, talk to ex-students, and engage with people who work in your field of interest. Then summarise all your outcomes on paper and analyse them. If you need support in your decision-making, present your outcomes with a friend or mentor. Remember you are in charge of making the decision.

3: Is it all about glitter and glamour?

Without exception, when we hear the word “fashion” we immediately associate it with glitter and glamour. Is it because we are all influenced by Hollywood movies and movie stars, or are fashion and glamour really connected? Let me talk about the “real” fashion industry. Assume you work for the biggest fashion house or designer in the world (like I did working for Karl Lagerfeld’s own fashion house). Is your daily work really glamorous? I will be gentle on you…the answer is a big NO.

The book “10 Successful Steps Into Fashion” written by Hanim-Dogan-Jain is available on, or iBook App.

lady red



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