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In the week since the New York Times published its first report on the numerous sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood exec Harvey Weinstein, followed by several sexual assault allegations reported by the New Yorker, women in entertainment and beyond have been coming forward to share their own experiences of sexual misconduct in the workplace. Yesterday, model and activist Cameron Russell invited those in the fashion industry to share their stories via Instagram DM, which she would then blast out to her 77,200 followers.
As of this morning, there were 33 posts and counting. Most come from models (both female and male) and photographers’ assistants who describe being verbally harassed and physically assaulted by much older men, including photographers and designers, in professional situations. Some models report the incidents taking place when they were as young as 15 and new to the job — a power imbalance that’s impossible to miss. (Russell has left all of the posts anonymous and blocked out the names of those accused of sexual misconduct.)
“Every model I’ve met has at least one story,” writes one contributor, who described being groped by a designer after he asked her to undress for a fitting.
Incidents of sexual harassment and assault are part of the larger narrative of the poor treatment of models. This is a recurring topic of conversation in the fashion industry, and one that bubbled up again recently when casting director James Scully publicly called out Balenciaga for leaving prospective runway models waiting for hours in an unlit stairwell. In early September, luxury giants LVMH and Kering jointly committed to new size requirements for their models (to discourage eating disorders) and restrictions on working with underage models. But despite the work of groups like the Model Alliance and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which has issued model health guidelines as far back as 2007, the industry’s commitment to sticking to any such rules has been spotty at best.