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5th February 2018

Sexual assault claims rock the fashion industry

In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, the fashion industry is rocked by allegations of sexual harassment by big-name photographers
Sexual assault claims rock the fashion industry
Photo: Le.Fanciulle @ Flickr

2017 will go down in history as the year that women finally said ‘Time’s Up’. It will be remembered for the countless brave people who came forward to say #metoo and finally tell their story after being silenced for so long. 2017 has triggered a movement: women are starting to talk about their experiences of sexual assault without shame and their abusers were finally being held accountable for their abominable actions.

It is fitting that this movement has gained momentum in the Trump era — in which one of the most powerful men in the world has had countless allegations of sexual assault made against him. The Times Up movement unites all women and spreads the message that enough is enough, that women and men alike will stand together against abuse and harassment at every level. The Golden Globes was the perfect example of this united front in Hollywood, where women and men donned all black outfits in support of the movement.

The Times Up movement comes after the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which rocked Hollywood in the latter part of 2017. However, as the numerous allegations made against the director show, this was just the tip of the iceberg. The scandal triggered a wave of support from women and men all across the industry and sent the message that these women do not have to suffer in silence. However, it has also demonstrated that there has been abuse at every level in every industry, not excluding the fashion industry. Now, male models are coming forward to speak out about the abuse they have suffered by big-name photographers.

In the wake of the Weinstein scandal, Condé Nast International finally severed ties with photographer Terry Richardson in October 2017 despite years of numerous allegations of sexual assault swirling about in the industry. American Vogue stopped working with Richardson in 2010 and now a number of high-end fashion brands such as Bulgari and Valentino have ended their contracts with the controversial photographer.

Since 2010 a number of women have made claims against Richardson, stating that he propositioned them for sex and touched them without their consent. Richardson addressed these rumours in 2014 in which he claimed the allegations were “an emotionally-charged witch hunt.” The question is why has it taken the fashion industry so long to take these allegations seriously? In the backlash of the Weinstein allegations, the message is loud and clear that these accusations will now no longer be ignored and finally abusers like Richardson will be held accountable.


Further to this, allegations have also been made about Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, the Royal family photographer, that has seen them both suspended from working with big fashion names including Vogue. Testino has been accused of subjecting 13 male assistants and models to unwanted sexual advances, that in some cases included groping and masturbation. According to the New York Times Weber has also been accused by 15 models of exposing them to unnecessary nudity and coercive sexual behaviour.

The issue lies with the immense power these men have within the industry. Similar to the Weinstein cases, victims were afraid to come forward and challenge them because of the fear of never working again. In the fashion industry, it seems that young men and male models are perhaps the most vulnerable to exploitation by photographers. Former model Trish Goff said that male models are ‘the least respected and most disposable’, therefore a claim against a Testino or a Richardson would not have been taken seriously because male models don’t become a personality like female models do.

Female models are instantly recognisable, whereas it is difficult to think of many well-known male models. These allegations are also important in highlighting that men can also suffer abuse by others in a position of power, it is not always gender-specific, and their stories need to be heard too.

Now that there have been numerous claims of sexual harassment and assault within the fashion industry, will we see this same kind of solidarity that we witnessed at the Golden Globes or will it simply be brushed under the carpet and neglected to be acknowledged by the wider fashion circuit?

Despite accusations having been made for years, it seems that it has taken until 2018 in the wake of the Weinstein scandal for these allegations to finally be taken seriously. The world is now listening to the voices that have long been silenced and holding those abusers accountable for their actions by stripping them of the positions of power, except for the President of course. It seems that despite different industries making inroads in dealing with allegations of sexual assault and harassment seriously, as long as Trump remains in office we still, as a society, have a long way to go to make the phrase #metoo the exception and not the norm.

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