Model Behaviour: The Voices Speaking Out Against Sexual Harassment In The Fashion Industry

In the midst of the not-so-surprising-how-did-it-take-this-long-to-emerge Harvey Weinstein ‘scandal’, conversation about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry has run rampant. This has led to professionals from all industries to speak out against this behaviour, in a somewhat belated attempt to eliminate the issue that plagues so many industries – including the fashion industry.

Model Cameron Russell is speaking out against sexual harassment in the industry. Image credit: Glamour

In a high-demand industry, it’s (sadly) unsurprising to learn that higher-ups manipulate their position and abuse their power to sexually harass models, PA’s and other industry workers. However, the tides have started to shift with more and more fashion professionals speaking out about sexual harassment and abuse in the industry.

American model and activist Cameron Russell recently took to Instagram to create a gallery of posts from anonymous sources who have faced sexual harassment in the fashion industry, each post featuring the tag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse. The screenshots that Cameron Russell has posted illustrate truly mortifying stories of sexual assault from photographers, designers and other industry leaders committing perverted acts against their clients. The stories told come from a variety of fashion industry workers including male and female models, photographers and personal assistants; however, one of the more disturbing factors of these posts is that majority of those who were assaulted were underage – usually 15-16 year olds – with the abuser often being a lot older.

Cameron Russell. Image credit: Kenzo Tribouillard | Getty Images

The posts have begun to generate conversation with many Instagram users complimenting Cameron Russell for using her platform to give others a voice. Others have complimented those who shared their stories with Cameron Russell.

Other models have also started to speak up about their experiences with sexual harassment within the industry, including London based model Jazz Egger. Jazz also took to Instagram with the hash tag #TruthBehindThisShot, telling her own story of sexual harassment. Just like the people in Cameron Russell’s post, Egger tells her story of professionals in the industry using their position to sexually harass others. In Egger’s case, one of her agencies gave her the boot after calling out her abuser on a public platform.

Another model that joined the ranks of speaking out against sexual harassment within the industry is Cara Delevingne, who has also recently spoken about her own encounters with producer Harvey Weinstein. Back in 2015, Delevingne spoke of her experiences and the general vibe of sexual harassment within the fashion industry saying:

I think you get that (sexual harassment) in every industry. I don’t think it’s just modelling, although I think it’s worse in modelling. There are male photographers who go into it purely because of the girls.

Cara Delevingne recently spoke about being harassed by renowned Hollywood predator, Harvey Weinstein. Image credit: High Snobiety

And it’s not only international models that have weighed in on the conversation: Australian model Fernanda Ly recently shared her own experience with, saying that she has been sexually harassed throughout her career. Fernanda Ly’s harassment came in the same manner as most other models had experienced: from a designer grabbing them inappropriately while preparing them for a shoot. She also described events in which unsolicited photos had been taken of her as she was made to strip down in public for her work – an issue that seems all too common in this technological age.

With this kind of behaviour running rampant throughout the industry, models and other staff need a support network or governing body to help those affected and to prevent this sort of behaviour from happening again.

Introducing Sara Ziff: who is not only an acclaimed model for campaigns the likes of Calvin Klein and Prada, she is also the founder of Model Alliance – a company that promotes sustainable practice and equality within the industry. Model Alliance offers services for models that have experienced or are currently experiencing sexual harassment within the workplace: such as counselling, and access to an attorney or legal advice.

Sara Ziff, founder of Model Alliance. Image credit: Into The Gloss

Luxury fashion brands have also put their hats in the ring in order to prevent further harassment and promote the well being of models. LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Moet and Hennessey) and Kering have teamed up to create ‘The Charter On The Working Relations With Fashion Models And Their Well Being’, which aims to protect their models and hold their brands accountable for any mistreatment endured working with the brand. This now allows models that deal with fashion houses like Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Christian Dior, Gucci, Balenciaga and Alex McQueen to be protected by this ground breaking charter.

A few of the new rules that the charter covers involving sexual harassment include: models now having designated private zones to change in (particularly during outside shoots), the brands must provide appropriate accommodation for the models, and models under the age of 18 can not pose semi-nude or nude unless consent has been given by them and a legal representative or guardian. The new rules, when announced, became effective immediately – meaning that all the current fashion shows must now abide by these regulations.

Model Selena Forrest walks the runway for Louis Vuitton’s Spring 2018 collection. Photo Credit: Vogue

In order to enforce these rules, LVMH will provide a representative for each fashion house who will ensure that complaints are handled responsibly while Kering will provide a hotline that will allow models to submit a complaint immediately. Another interesting section of the charter says that any brand can carry out unannounced inspections throughout fashion shows and shootings to ensure that the all parties are complying with the charter.

Member of the LVMH board of directors and CEO of Berluti, Antoine Arnault is glad to see this charter come into effect saying, “ The well-being of models is of great importance to us. As the leader in the luxury sector, we believe it is our role to be at the forefront of this initiative”. The CEO of Kering, Francois-Henri Pinault also made comment on the new charter saying, “ Respecting the dignity of all women has always been both a personal commitment for me and a priority Kering as a group”. Both men hope that the fashion industry will also follow in their steps in order to completely eliminate these repugnant attitudes.

With more and more stories of sexual harassment unfolding each day – in all industries – it is certainly encouraging to see powerhouses like Kering and LVMH working towards change. As for all men and women that have shared their own stories, my hat goes off to you for standing up for yourself in an already tough industry – adding your voice to the fray instils confidence in those afraid to speak up, and hopefully encourages others to join in the revolution against this  revolting abuse-of-power mentality.