2017 was a year of reckoning, of awakening, and of resistance against sexual predators that plague the entertainment industry.
But in the world of fashion, the struggle is far from over. Its barely begun.
In a recent interview with Numero magazine, fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld said hes fed up with the #MeToo movement and criticised models who complained about being groped.
A girl complained he tried to pull her pants down and he is instantly excommunicated from a profession that up until then had venerated him, Lagerfeld said of Interview Magazines Creative Director, Karl Templer, who stands accused of sexual assault.
Its unbelievable. If you dont want your pants pulled about, dont become a model! Join a nunnery, therell always be a place for you in the convent. Theyre recruiting.
The interview led to social media uproar with actresses such as Rose McGowan calling for a #ChanelBoycott and deeming his comments disgusting and misogynistic.
Karl Lagerfeld is fed up with the #MeToo. Well, Im fed up with rich old entitled white guys with ponytails who make their money off women insecurities, comedian Whitney Cummings announced on Twitter.
For a while, it felt like this was the end of Lagerfelds glorious reign in fashion. In the wake of Harvey Weinstein scandal, designers, editors, and industry insiders jumped to condemn Hollywood men accused of sexual violence. Actors such as Matt Damon were instantly shut down for making out-of-touch comments about #MeToo.
When the numerous sexual assault allegations against photographers such as Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Terry Richardson, and Patrick Demarchelier were reported, top publications including Vogue vowed to cut ties with them.
Soon, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), the organization that controls the calendar for the New York Fashion Week released a statement regarding sexual harassment in the fashion industry.
The CFDA firmly believes that everyone in our industry deserves the right to feel safe and respected, chairman Diane von Furstenberg wrote. We have zero tolerance for unsafe environments and strongly encourage everyone in the fashion industry to report abuse in the workplace.
And yet Karl Lagerfeld is still working.
I have been sexually assaulted on set multiple times. I wonder @KarlLagerfeld what existence is like when you are a part of the ruling class in society. Women will not be dressed by misogyny anymore. Shame on you. #Metoo
— Bridget Malcolm (@BridgetIMalcolm) April 19, 2018
The grand statements about making fashion safe remain just that – statements. Why? Because its about business.
Chanel and Fendi are those industry behemoths that pretty much make or break advertising revenue for many magazines. Its why Lagerfeld can confidently advocate for pulling womens panties down.
Although models such as Bridget Malcolm and Teddy Quinlivan have courageously come forward criticizing Lagerfeld, their voices are still in the minority – and theyre not being backed up by major fashion players.
As for the rest of the industry including models such as Naomi Campbell and Kaia Gerber who have a long-standing relationship with “Papa Karl” and otherwise advocate for diversity in fashion, theres only the sound of shameful silence.
Canada-based Monika Cionek, who goes by the stage name Anne Noble, describes how a series of bad encounters led to her being ostracised from fashion altogether.
I have many bad experiences with agents and photographers over the years, Monika tells Metro.co.uk. Throughout the last five years, I refused to be silenced about the systemic injustices I have endured or witnessed.
Certain people were put in place to push me out of the industry and my community, once and for all.
Cionek claims that she was on numerous occasions manipulated into romantic relationships with powerful men in the industry, who offered to help her with her work. When the relationships turned abusive and she refused to go along, she was shunned from local fashion communities and stopped receiving work.
By this time, I was more than glad to leave, and today almost no one reaches out to me to even ask me how I am, she says.
Cionek is not alone in being banished for speaking out. Fear of losing work and being branded hard to work with, as Bridget Malcolm notes, is what keeps young women from speaking out.
In a 2017 interview with The Sunday Times, London-based fashion director and stylist Tamara Cincik accused photographer Terry Richardson of exposing himself to her at a dinner table in Paris.
He put his dick on the table at a very chic dinner after his gallery opening, she told the Times. The table was full of editors, his agency of the time, friends and associates. He made it extremely clear that he wanted to have sex with me and told me so in a very clear and aggressive manner.
Today, Tamara says people allowed Richardson to get away with deeply inappropriate behaviour.
Had this systemic abuse not been in place, more women would be more successful, she tells Metro.co.uk. [Richardson] made millions. I didnt. I was as good a stylist a stylist as anyone. I had a front row career.
She explains that while everyone present witnessed what happened with Richardson, she was asked to take it as a compliment.
It was a huge dinner. I told everyone but no one heard me. I was told to be flattered. Whats flattering about a man banging his dick on the dinner table? I told him to put it away and that was it.
I said to people “dont work with him” but they said “oh, but I like his work.”
His assistant said “he does that all the time”.
I thought about all the people he has done that to and the money he has made. Its in-built abuse to create a world where men like that stay in control and we dont make the same money as they do.
Fashion is an industry built on female bodies. But it remains largely unregulated with agents, photographers, editors and even designers refusing to take accountability for their role in fostering an exploitative workplace.
More: Sexual harassment
Key players in fashion regularly take it upon themselves to defend the accused rather than the accuser.
When the allegations against Weber and Testino first came to light, several celebrities including model Elaine Irwin and actress Isabella Rosellini jumped to their support.
Thank you for being the man friend partner artist photographer u are, designer Donna Karan wrote in an Instagram post to express her support of Weber. Bruce Weber is an artist thru and thru, added Christie Brinkley.
Unlike Hollywood, in fashion, there are no resignations, or remorseful statements – only unabashed denial of culpability. The bogus outrage over sexual abuse is only reserved for victims that dont disrupt the business and the obvious power imbalance that nurtures the abuse.
New York-based Gloria (last name withheld on request) experienced sexual misconduct regularly while working as a young model. Shes become used to the industrys complicity in abuse.
There isnt just a one time I have experienced sexual assault or harassment in fashion, Gloria tells us. It happens quite often actually.
Designers and photographers are all a part of this. They just get away with it because they have more pull or connections in the industry than us.
While industry watchdogs such as Model Alliances Sara Ziff have taken a stringent stance against the abuse of models, powerhouses such as Conde Nast and Hearst take no real accountability as they continue to tacitly support industry giants such as Lagerfeld.
The Model Alliance and its allies refuse to tolerate bullying or abuse – be it physical or verbal – in our industry, said Sara Ziff in a recent statement.
The fashion industry should be a place where creativity and self-expression flourishes, and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect on the job. Times have changed – and, with it, fashions moral standing and accountability must as well.
Fashion is built up to be a utopia for women – one thats both dominated by them and also primarily addresses their needs.
But behind the glossy pages of ad spreads hides an industry doing nothing to address sweeping claims of sexual misconducts.
Even so, with models like Quinlivan and Malcolm and organizations like Model Alliance pressing for change, the pressure is mounting.
Will fashion finally stand up to its claims of feminism or will it continue to ignore and enable the abusers? Who can tell?
As for now, in fashion its business as usual.