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100 Models Urge The Industry To Sign A Legally Binding Contract Against Sexual Harassment

Fashion East Fall 2018
Photo: Jamie Stoker

One-hundred models have joined together to launch the Respect Programme, a legally binding agreement to protect models and end sexual harassment within the industry.

Led by Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff, who announced the agreement yesterday at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the aim is to create an environment of mutual respect between agencies, brands, models, and the stream of creatives, such as freelance photographers, stylists, make-up artists, hairstylists, and assistants, that make up the fashion industry’s supply chain.

Before taking to the stage at the summit for a talk entitled “Being a Model in the #MeToo Economy”, alongside fellow model Edie Campbell, casting director and Model Alliance advisory board member James Scully, and Kering CSO Marie-Claire Daveu, Ziff posted an open letter on her Instagram. She said that she had felt emboldened by Campbell, who wrote an open letter to the fashion industry in November highlighting model abuse and calling for radical change, and also Scully, who used Instagram to call out abusers of power at the start of the model #MeToo movement.

“As models, our images serve a commercial purpose, but our bodies remain ours,” reads the letter. “Agreeing to be photographed or filmed as professional representatives of a product or brand does not constitute agreement to be groped, fondled, involuntarily disrobed, or worse.” Although models are the most visible people in the fashion supply chain, and often appear to be the most fortunate, there are no basic labour laws, Ziff told the summit.

Through the Respect Programme, models will have access to a confidential complaint process that protects them against retaliation, and ensures independent investigation and lasting consequences for harassers. Other elements of the agreement include prevention of economic abuse by making sure that models are paid on time, so they are not vulnerable or indebted to their agency, and encouraging signatories to work with each other more frequently.

“Respect goes beyond words of sympathy and band-aid fixes, and works towards prevention by empowering models to identify and uproot these abuses, backed by the enforcement power of the top companies in fashion,” the letter continues. As part of a survey conducted by Model Alliance in 2012, 85 percent of female models have been asked to pose nude at a job or casting without prior notice, while one in three have been put under pressure to have sex on the job. Unless everyone is educated, Ziff said, we can’t move forward as an industry.

Karen Elson, Doutzen Kroes, Teddy Quinlivan, Nathalia Novaes, Milla Jovovich, Caitriona Balfe, Bryce Thompson, Jason Fedele, Geena Rocero, and Elettra Wiedemann are among the models who have signed an open letter, and Ziff said that the Model Alliance has felt “very encouraged” by meetings with major agencies, such as IMG, The Society, Elite Worldwide and DNA Model Management, who they have urged to sign the agreement.

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