Tuesday morning, over 100 models including a former Victoria’s Secret “Angel” signed a petition urging the biggest name in lingerie fashion to protect its models. The letter is addressed to John Mehas, calling on Victoria’s Secret’s chief executive officer to make a legally binding commitment to protect contractors, such as models, from sexual misconduct.
Organized by the Model Alliance, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization led by former model Sara Ziff, the petition calls out photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel, and of course Jeffrey Epstein – one of the most infamous sexual offenders in America at the moment, and the man that was in the headline of the veteran model’s article for The Cut. Ziff wrote, “it is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls.”
The Model Alliance calls on Victoria’s Secret to sign on to its Respect program. The document was designed by models and released in 2018 intended to formalize the ways that models can report workplace problems across industries, while creating an independent body to investigate complaints. The program also aims to provide education and training. Signed companies make a binding commitment to its principles which also applies to the company’s contractors, such as photographers, agents, and vendors. The letter continues, “Victoria’s Secret has the opportunity to be a leader, to use its power and influence to bring about the changes that are urgently needed in our industry. Every day, fashion brands, publishing companies, and agencies set the norm of what’s acceptable and what’s not in fashion.”
Co-signers of the petition include former Victoria’s Secret “Angel” Doutzen Kroes and big-name models such as Christy Turlington Burns, Carolyn Murphy, Edie Campbell, Gemma Ward, Iskra Lawrence, Karen Elson, and Milla Jovovich. Other signers are among the Hollywood-led initiative Time’s Up as well as industry leaders such as photographers Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, and former Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive.
The New York Times recently reported that Jeffrey Epstein presented himself to models as a talent scout for Victoria’s Secret. Interestingly enough, Epstein had a decades-long friendship with L Brands CEO Leslie H. Wexner, who owns Victoria’s Secret. The board of directors at L Brands has hired a firm to look into Epstein‘s relationship with the company, but Wexner has denied any knowledge of his old friend’s sexual misconducts.
According to Business of Fashion, Conde Nast created its own code of conduct following allegations of sexual misconduct against several of its contract photographers in 2018. And in 2017, Kering and LVMH jointly signed a charter that established workplace conduct norms for models. Both Conde Nast and Kering have committed to not working with models under 18.