In an open letter written by the Model Alliance and addressed to Victoria's Secret CEO John Mehas, current and former runway stars call on the company to take a role in remedying sexual harassment, citing "numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models," as several photographers associated with the company have been accused of misconduct, plus the links between various L Brands executives—including company head Leslie Wexner—and convicted sex offender and former financier Jeffrey Epstein. (Sara Ziff, the founder of Model Alliance, has written about Epstein in the past.)
"In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models. While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria's Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation," the letter reads. "From the headlines about L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner’s close friend and associate, Jeffrey Epstein, to the allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel, it is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls."
In the letter, the Model Alliance pointed to the position Victoria's Secret holds in the industry and its platform as a means to combat abuses in the industry: "We are calling on Victoria’s Secret to take meaningful action to protect its talent and those who aspire to work with the company. 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 norms of what’s acceptable and what’s not in fashion. If Victoria’s Secret were to take a stand against these abuses and commit to meaningful change by joining the RESPECT Program, this would go a long way in helping our industry chart a new path forward."
This comes hours after the news that Ed Razek, the company's marketing executive and a controversial figure himself, will be retiring at the end of the month. (Last year he made several offensive comments about transgender and plus-size models ahead of the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.)
Of the open letter, a Victoria's Secret spokesperson told Glamour: "We are always concerned about the welfare of our models and want to continue to have dialogue with the Model Alliance and others to accomplish meaningful progress in the industry."
In a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, Rebecca Goldman, interim CEO of Time's Up, said of the open letter: "Too often, women across industries are forced to choose between speaking out about sexual harassment on the job or advancing their careers. It’s crucial that we have mechanisms like Model Alliance’s RESPECT Program in place to ensure that workers can safely report abuse and will be protected against retaliation."
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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue