Edie Campbell, Karen Elson, Milla Jovovich and Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff have signed the open letter
The fashion industry could soon shift toward a more accountable model.
More than 100 models signed an open letter this week calling for a legally binding contract to protect models against sexual misconduct, The Cut reported. Led by the labor activism group Model Alliance, the RESPECT program urges agencies, fashion brands and publishing companies to join in “(fostering) a work environment that is no longer fertile ground for abuse.”
“Every company in our industry says it abhors sexual harassment and wants to protect those at risk of abuse. We believe that if a company is serious about protecting us, it will be willing to go beyond mere promises to do better and embrace enforceable standards, with real teeth,” the letter reads. “Together, we will enable a working environment in which creative collaboration and self-expression flourishes, and everyone can work without fear of harassment, abuse, discrimination or violence.”
The RESPECT program seeks to provide “an industry-wide blueprint” to guard models and others against sexual harassment, according to the letter, calling for buy-in from top fashion companies over “words of sympathy and bandaid fixes.” It reportedly plans to engage an independent third party to receive complaints, as well as ensure that models are paid on time to prevent their being indebted to agencies.
RESPECT’s debut comes amid the ongoing #MeToo reckoning, which has prompted prominent models like Christy Turlington to share tales of on-the-job sex harassment. Among the letter’s signatories are Edie Campbell, Elliott Sailors, Karen DeSouza, Karen Elson, Milla Jovovich and Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff, who told The Cut her initiative has received “positive responses” from big modeling agencies. (Companies reportedly have yet to sign on.)
Over the past year, many courageous individuals have revealed the dark truth of sexual harassment in the fashion industry. These concerns have yet to be addressed in a meaningful way. Today, with over 100 other models, I’m putting forward the solution: the RESPECT Program. We are calling on brands, agencies and media companies to sign a legally binding agreement to foster an industry defined by safe workplaces and mutual respect. Link in bio. #Time4RESPECT
“It’s a way for individual companies to make sure that they’re compliant and there are real consequences for people who abuse their power,” Ziff said. “If you have these lofty standards but there are no consequences for violating them, you’ll see the same problems over and over again.”
Ziff previously teamed up with Democratic New York Assemblywoman Nily Rozic on legislation to hold designers, photographers, agencies, management companies and other entities accountable for potential unwelcome sexual advances toward models.
“Models need protection against sexual harassment, and that shouldn’t be controversial,” the former model previously told Moneyish. “This industry really needs (to be) professionalized — and I don’t think it will be until we hold people accountable through legislation.”
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