If you don’t want your panties pulled, don’t become a model! — Karl Lagerfeld, Numéro, April 2018.
In any other environment, such comments would have sparked a real outcry. However, a month later, the whole gotha applauds the latest Chanel collection under the vault of the Grand Palais.
Following the Weinstein scandal, many expected — me included — to see a bunch of fashion heads rolling. Radio silence for several months, until the New York Times published testimonies incriminating photographer-stars Bruce Weber and Mario Testino… who then received countless messages of support. So, can a movement like Me Too really take in the world of shootings and shows?
Slowly… but surely?
Bernard Arnaud and François-Henri Pinault — the brains behind LVMH and Kering — sat together last September under the guidance of casting director James Scully. The programme includes a “welfare charter”, including a minimum BMI, a size 32 ban and a chaperone for under-18 models.
For her part, faced with accusations about her two dear friends, Anna Wintour chose to ban them from Condé Nastpublications. By the way, she launched a “code of conduct” requiring, among other things, that the model be informed of any nude shots before the photo session.
To say that no consciousness awakens in fashion would therefore be false. That being said, it is cruelly lacking in voices. Most models who report sexual harassment are anonymous or unknown. Tops, creators, photographers, editors… the “established” figures speaking out to denounce the abuse hidden by glossy paper can be counted on the fingers of one hand. While a safe setting finally seems to be being built, it must be accompanied by the support of industry members to hold it together.
Instagram as an expression platform
Although discreet, but still present, models lead their struggle on their preferred social network. In January, @ShitModelMgmt – an account collecting memes about modeling – received a torrent of harassment testimonies. Hiding the identity of the victim as that of the assailant, the profile posted screenshots in its story (ephemeral publication of 24h, ed.).
Cameron Russel, one of the few tops to break the omerta, went even further. Campaigning with her hashtag My Job Should Not Include Abuse, she also received her fair amount of stories… shared on her page definitively, this time.
Such actions sound like salvation in an sector where excesses are glorified, the creator being seen as a king, silence and flattery as greater laws. Moreover, while the general debate focuses more on female victims, fashion unfortunately has its share of men assaulted. A too often forgotten fact, which makes it more difficult to free speech, and which must be taken into account to bring about a profound change… By definition, being a model consists in being beautiful and attractive. Not having to spread your legs in the hope of a cover. •