TRIGGER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS INFORMATION ABOUT INSTANCES OF HARASSMENT.
The #metoo movement started gaining ground, declaring "enough's enough" when it came to harassment in the workplace, and helped individuals gain agency and feel empowered. That sense of empowerment has started to permeate through almost every aspect of the entertainment industry from the acting sector to the executive level. Now the fashion industry is following suit thanks to an initiative by Sara Ziff, the founder of Model Alliance who's put her organizational savvy to work to create the Respect program.
To prove she was serious, Ziff got a hundred models together, including Resident Evil franchise star Milla Jojovich, to promote the program on Wednesday at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. Also on hand to lend their support to the cause were such models as Edie Campbell, Karen Elson, Doutzen Kroes, and Teddy Quinlivan.
Harassment behind the catwalks in the fashion industry has not been as high-profile as in Hollywood, but it's just as rampant. Earlier this year, more than a dozen male models publicly claimed photographer Mario Testino had violated them. Another photographer, Bruce Weber, has been the subject of an investigation surrounding similar activity. Similarly, photographer Terry Richardson's name has come up in several allegations, including one made by model Kate Upton. Even Princess Diana's personal photographer, Patrick Demarchelier, has been cited as a perpetrator.
The harassment goes beyond the actual predators. The rest of the industry has been complicit in allowing this to happen. Nowhere is that more shocking than in numerous accounts that movie producer Harvey Weinstein, one of Hollywood's most notorious figures in alleged misconduct, used his fashion connections to get dates with models.
Ziff's program wants to end all of that, by getting designers, agencies, and media to protect models via a legally-binding contract where models and other targets of abuse can use a confidential process to register complaints that can be investigated.
“The program establishes an orderly and fair process for addressing charges of abuse. It provides comprehensive training and education to models and all industry participants," said Ziff.
"This system benefits models, photographers and other service providers, and every company that wants to do the right thing. The only people who don’t benefit are the harassers themselves”.
Respect has already been taking other initiatives than public announcements at fashion summits. Earlier this year, Ziff's company already struck an alliance with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to ensure models have access to private changing spots prior to New York Fashion Week.
Respect has a three-prong approach to ensuring zero tolerance among the fashion industry work force by focusing on aspects related to health, diversity and safety.
We certainly hope that this program helps many individuals!