In January, ahead of the first New York Fashion Week after the #TimesUp social revolution began, the Council of Fashion Designers of America sent out its regular pre-show missive.
For the first time, it encouraged fashion houses to create private changing areas to guard against models being effectively naked in front of the many makeup artists, hairstylists, photographers, journalists and other random people who work behind the scenes of a show, where the making-of aspect has become as public as the event itself.
Most designers tried to comply. Nevertheless, at one show, as at many other shows over the following month in the other fashion cities, the private changing area was more of an ideal than a reality. “There was a male photographer there taking pictures while girls were getting undressed!” said Edie Campbell, a model.
In February, a model from Minneapolis who met with a photographer to work on her portfolio reported him to the police after, she said, he forcibly touched her near her breasts and genitals. Four other models’ accounts were also described, on Facebook, involving coerced nude photo shoots and suggestive personal commentary with the same man. And in late May, a model from Nashville, Tennessee, who had come to New York to attend a casting was invited to a nightclub by the director of her agency, where, she said, he bought her shots and then groped her.
Today, as New York Fashion Week begins, all eyes will be on the industry to see how much has changed since multiple scandals involving sexual assault and harassment ensnared some of fashion’s top photographers and prompted a patchwork of measures to prevent further mistreatment.
Interviews with dozens of models, agents and others in the fashion supply chain show that at the very visible top of the fashion pyramid, where brands are global and reputational risk is high, attitudes have shifted (at least when it comes to female models). But the change has not necessarily trickled down into the industry at large.
Condé Nast, LVMH and Kering, three industry leaders that have publicly established their own codes of conduct regarding the treatment of models and have implemented hotlines to report violations, said there had been no calls to those hotlines.
Yet the Model Alliance, a research and policy organization focused on modeling rights, received more than 100 calls between October 2017 and July 2018 reporting sexual harassment and assault, according to the group — an increase of 40 times over the year before.
There have also been logistical changes, including, at LVMH and Kering, contractually preapproved nudity, limiting hours and making sure no model is left alone with a photographer.
Condé Nast and Condé Nast International have committed to not using models under the age of 18. As a rule, guardians accompany models who are between 16 and 18 on set, and agencies such as IMG Models and DNA are dedicated to enforcing this.
The British Fashion Council helped create the British Fashion Model Agents Association, which meets four times a year and acts as a bridge between agencies, models and brands to “identify areas for positive change,” according to the chief executive, Caroline Rush, and to assess and identify bad actors.
But the lack of consistent global standards, and the debate about the best way forward, has created a sense of ambiguity that has left models in real doubt about the depth of the commitment.
* From the New YorkTimes