Dealing with Harassment in the Fashion Industry


Harvey Weinstein photographed with Donna Karan

The allegations by numerous women against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, has blown the lid off a rather nasty can of worms. Accusations against his brother Bob, and actors such as Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman followed.

It very soon transpired that behaviour of a sexually predatory nature was not limited to the film industry, but is also rife in other spheres of life such as fashion and politics.

The first one in fashion to have gotten stung in the fallout, was Donna Karan. The veteran designer rather unwisely defended Weinstein, husband of Marchesa co-designer Georgina Chapman, by inferring that women dress too revealingly. Social media did not tolerate such victim blaming, and images of extremely skimpy DKNY designs were duly circulated. A campaign to boycott the fashion house took off, even though Karan herself had stepped down from the brand in July 2016 already, and it is now owned by LMVH.


Rita Ora in a revealing Donna Karan creation

As for Marchesa, it would seem that Weinstein boosted the brand by pressurising actresses working with him into wearing the label on the red carpet. Perhaps partly in order to save her business, Chapman has filed for divorce, after publicly stating that Weinstein has no direct affiliation with Marchesa and is not a member of Marchesa Holdings LLC.


Actress Felicity Huffman felt pressurized to wear Marchesa to the 2006 Golden Globes


Supermodel and activist Cameron Russell

Probably the most helpful response came from within the domain of fashion itself. Model and Activist Cameron Russell started a hashtag on Instagram: #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse, allowing models who experienced sexual harassment to share their stories via direct message. Russell has published some of the accounts, maintaining anonymity. But she says,

“There will be follow up meetings where we can explore ways to make at least some of the names public. There are many Weinsteins in our industry, they aren’t hard to spot. If you know one, act now. Don’t wait for 30 years for a New York Times exposé.”


Terry Richardson photographing Lady Gaga

It is encouraging that after having turned a blind eye to his risqué antics for years, top fashion magazines Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Glamour and Porter announced recently that they will no longer be working with (in)famous photographer Terry Richardson. Both Bulgari and Valentino have followed suit.

The fashion industry must be a safe working environment, and as future fashion practitioners, we can help rid the industry of unsavory elements. We must be aware of opportunities for abuse, and eliminate them. Use reputable photographers, and choose safe locations for shoots. Do not let your model be alone with the photographer, and provide appropriate changing areas that afford privacy. Believe the victims, investigate reports of impropriety, and act on the findings.

And above all, SPEAK OUT. It was the conspiracy of silence that allowed Harvey Weinstein to sexually harass vulnerable women (82 at the last count), over decades.