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4th November 2013

Terry Richardson: “It’s not who you know, it’s who you blow”.

Inka Kemppainen-Vann explores what the conduct of Terry Richardson tells us about the fashion industry’s attitude towards women

Fashion photographer Terry Richardson has a multitude of celebrities, fashion brands and influential magazines at his feet. Having shot for the likes of Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent, and Tom Ford, and counting Barack Obama, Lady Gaga, and the Rolling Stones as previous subjects, he undeniably holds an impressive clientele base. Born in New York and raised in Hollywood, Richardson has lived his life surrounded by glamour, and last year alone raked in over sixty million dollars.

Despite his commercial successes, Richardson has caused a great deal of controversy as of late. Shadowed by his reputation as exploitative and sexually inappropriate, with a string of pornographic images to account for this, Richardson’s success could be set to crumble. has introduced a campaign insisting “STOP USING ALLEGED SEX OFFENDER TERRY RICHARDSON AS YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER”, aimed towards Vogue, H&M, Supreme and various other brands. The campaign arises from Richardson’s offensive and distasteful portrayal of young women in high-profile fashion media, coupled with allegations from models Coco Rocha, Jamie Peck and Rie Rasmussen that they were subject to sexual harassment at the hands of Richardson. The petition’s creator, Londoner Alice Louise, questions how such high-profile fashion entities can continue to employ the services of a man who abuses and degrades the women he works with.

This petition comes amid current controversy over the behaviour and appearance of twenty-year-old musician Miley Cyrus. The singer’s recent forays onto worldwide television have been considered offensive and as an unsuitable example of womanhood to her young and guileless fans. It is perhaps rather fitting, then, that Richardson was responsible for a recent photo shoot of Cyrus deemed to be nothing more than ‘soft porn’, depicting the young singer in a number of sexually suggestive positions and clothes. Moreover, Richardson also directed Cyrus’ most recent music video, ‘Wrecking Ball’, which has been almost universally ridiculed and induced much concern over the music industry’s treatment of young females. Between the two of them, this pair has racked up enough misdemeanours to found an inquiry into the fashion industry’s portrayal of women to the wider world. Terry Richardson’s work is feeding a popular image of women as exploitable sexual objects for men’s disposal.

In light of the controversy surrounding Richardson, we might feel catapulted back to the noughties – when several ex-employees of American Apparel filed lawsuits against the brand’s founder, Dov Charney, claiming instances of sexual abuse. Despite these prolific allegations, Charney has remained the CEO of a multi-million dollar clothing brand. As far as Richardson is concerned, little impact has been made on his firm foothold within the fashion industry. We can only hope that Alice Louise’s petition is the first step towards retribution for those wanting the fashion world to be based on equality, sophistication, and an ethical code of conduct.


To see full details of the petition, visit

“It’s not who you know it’s who you blow” for more information here:


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