This Insider Thinks the Fashion Industry Is on the Brink of Its Own #MeToo Movement
On Saturday, The New York Times published an exposé detailing allegations of sexual harassment against fashion photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino.
The story outlines the way in which each photographer conducted themselves with their subjects, according to 15 current and retired male models interviewed for the piece. Weber was accused of asking models to undress and signaling them to touch themselves, while Testino allegedly had “subjected them to sexual advances that in some cases included groping and masturbation.”
Weber defended himself in a statement released through his lawyer: “I’m completely shocked and saddened by the outrageous claims being made against me, which I absolutely deny.” Testino’s law firm, Lavely & Singer "challenged the characters and credibility of people who complained of harassment, and also wrote that it had spoken to several former employees who were 'shocked by the allegations' and that those employees 'could not confirm any of the claims.'"
The stories against these photographers are similar to those told by many actresses in Hollywood, who have bravely spoken up about harassment in the workplace since accusations against Harvey Weinstein made headlines. And though many fashion insiders suspected that accusations against Weber and Testino were boiling for months, there’s one question left unanswered: What’s next?
The Time’s Up movement, and the fact that so many women and men wore black as a form of protest at the 2018 Golden Globes, was reflective of the outcome of people coming together to support a cause and fix a problem. The aforementioned movement aims to raise funds to help defend women in lesser-protected workforces against inequality and sexual harassment. As of Jan. 7, the organization, supported by many actresses, raised nearly $16 million.
But what does this mean for the fashion industry? Fashion photographer Terry Richardson has long been accused of harassment, yet still works in the industry. And models like Edie Campbell and Christy Turlington Burns have written open letters and have vocalized their concerns about, specifically, models that bare witness to and often experience harassment first-hand working in fashion.
Are the accusations against Weber and Testino the beginning of a #MeToo-like movement in the fashion industry? James Scully seems to think so. The casting director—who holds a spot on the Business of Fashion’s BoF 500 list—has long been an advocate of diversity in fashion.
In February 2017, Scully shocked many when he took to Instagram to call out the mistreatment of models he witnessed at Paris Fashion Week. Specifically, he said Lanvin issued a mandate to model agents saying “they do not want to be presented with women of color,” that some fashion houses tried to work with models as young as 15, and that Balenciaga casting directors Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes had models wait in a staircase for three hours to be considered for the show.
VIDEO: James Franco Denis Sexual Harassment Allegations Following Golden Globes Backlash
“It’s inconceivable to me that people have no regard for human decency or the lives and feelings of these girls, especially when too too many of these models are under the age of 18 and clearly not equipped to be here but god forbid well sacrifice anything or anyone for an exclusive right?” he wrote.
In his post, he also asked models to DM him with similar stories of harassment and has since openly spoken about the issue. He also teamed up with LVHM (the owner of Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton) to create guidelines that protect models.
Now, Scully is opening up about the allegations against Weber and Testino, and what could be next for the industry. “I was not caught off guard because I knew, and everyone in the industry knew this was coming. This has been going on long before Harvey Weinstein, and I think obviously the Weinstein thing jet-propelled it, which is a good thing, but it’s been the big talk,” Scully told Them.
Scully, who praised the models who came forward in an Instagram post, explained why the Times piece argues that young men are “particularly vulnerable.” He said, “Men make 1/8th of the money women do, so it’s just a much more disposable industry,” and added that the “well-being” of many male models is not the priority for certain agents.
He continued to explain why the Times piece is just the beginning. “If fashion is going to have this moment—which, there are so many people who don’t want it to, and others who think it needs to—it is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, explaining insiders like stylists, other photographers, and hairdressers are keeping mum on a lot of inequality.
“This is not the time to sit silent—you need to say what you’re going to say,” he said, moving on to recount his own experience of assault. “So I empathize with every person and I’m in awe of the people who just put it out there. This took 25 years, and if Harvey Weinstein didn’t happen, this all would have taken 10 years longer. It’s one of the reasons I spoke up in the first place, because I couldn’t take one more minute of it because I thought, I can walk away. But I can’t walk away knowing I didn’t try.”
Scully added that he’s optimistic for the future, hoping these stories elicit change. While he does think more stylists and casting directors will be accused—“a lot of those people are so young that a lot of them came into this business only knowing this kind of behavior—he credits organizations like The Model Alliance for setting up measures to protect models.
Specifically, the Alliance, founded by Sara Ziff, is where models can go after suffering from assault or harassment. “Now, the tables are slowly turning. Her support is growing, and hopefully it will be the standard bearer of how the business works,” he said. “And the fact that she’s now getting real support from girls like Karlie Kloss and Karen Elson—then those kinds of people speak out and support you, that really opens the door.”