Fashion industry fights back following sexual harassment allegations against photographer Mario Testino

Photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber have been accused of sexual harassment [Photo: Getty]

Hollywood isn’t the only industry being rocked by sexual harassment allegations, the fashion industry is currently wrestling with it’s own scandal.

Over the weekend, the NY Times published an article alleging that top fashion photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber had a history of sexually exploiting and abusing male models.

Though Testino made a name for himself taking glossy photos of models, he’s also become one of the go-to photographers for the royal family.

Having been responsible for those iconic Vanity Fair photos of Princess Diana taken months before her death, he went on to take the official engagement photograph of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2010, and was the official photographer for Princess Charlotte’s christening in 2015 and regularly photographed other royals.

Mario Testino took the official photographs for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement and Princess Charlotte’s christening [Photos: Mario Testino]

Though Weber strenuously denies the claims against him and lawyers for Testino said his accusers “cannot be considered reliable sources”, the fashion industry has been quick to respond.

Michael Kors and shoemaker Stuart Weitzman, have revealed they have no plans to work with him again.

Burberry too has released a short statement saying: “We take allegations of this nature very seriously.”

Testino was thought to be lined up to become the official photographer at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle but has allegedly been ruled out following the allegations.

According to The Telegraph, Kensington Palace has declined to comment saying: “It is not something we are commenting on at this stage,” a spokesman for Prince Harry and Ms Markle revealed before adding: “We have not provided any further details on who will be photographing the wedding.”

But a fashion industry source admitted that before the allegations Testino was believed to be the “front runner” to photograph the wedding.

Mario Testino with Anna Wintour in September last year [Photo: Getty]

Following the allegations, publishing house Conde Nast has revealed it will not be working with either photographer “for the foreseeable future”. 

Conde Nast’s artistic director Anna Wintour, who is also American Vogue’s editor-in-chief said in a statement that the claims had been “hard to hear” and “heartbreaking to confront.”

In her statement on the Vogue website, Wintour said: “Both (photographers) are personal friends of mine who have made extraordinary contributions to Vogue and many other titles at Conde Nast over the years, and both have issued objections or denials to what has emerged.

“I believe strongly in the value of remorse and forgiveness, but I take the allegations very seriously, and we at Conde Nast have decided to put our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future.”

Weber and Testino aren’t the only photographers who have been placed on the will-not-use list. Last year fashion photographer Terry Richardson was also banned from working with all Condé Nast International publications following allegations of sexual harassment.

According to The Telegraph, a leaked email sent by the company’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, James Woolhouse, publications including VogueGQ and Vanity Fair were told to stop all shoots with Richardson.

Following the Harvey Weinstein scandal, thousands of women stepped forward to reveal their own stories of sexual harassment and assault under the #MeToo movement, and it seems the fashion industry was no exception.

Not long after the #MeToo movement first ignited, model Cameron Russell began posting anonymous stories from fellow models of their own experiences on her Instagram account.

Using the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse, Russell encouraged other models to share their stories, explaining that she wanted to shine a light on the abuse of young, often inexperienced models by professionals in the industry.

“Hearing about #harveyweinstein this week has sparked conversations about how widespread and how familiar his behaviour is,” she wrote in her Instagram feed, explaining that the hashtag should be used “so the industry can see the size and scope of this problem”.

Former supermodel Christy Turlington has also thrown her weight behind the model movement.

She told WWD that though she felt fortunate that she had not been abused she believes harassment is a real concern within fashion: “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry,” she said.

“The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experienced at some point in our careers.”

Photographer Bruce Weber is facing allegations of sexual harassment [Photo: Getty]

Turlington isn’t the only model to speak out. Towards the end of last year, ten models bravely opened up about the sexual harassment and assaults they have suffered while on various jobs within the fashion industry.

In a video shot by Harper’s Bazaar in partnership with the Model Alliance, an organisation that campaigns to protect models’ rights in the workplace, the models recounted experiences including being asked to take their clothes off during photo shoots as well as being physically abused by industry professionals.

Just like in Hollywood, it seems that solidarity could be crucial in creating a future fashion industry that better protects those who work within it.

Earlier this month, the luxury fashion groups Kering (which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga) and LVMH (which owns Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Celine) created a new Models’ Charter that they hope other companies will also adopt.

The charter will be implemented across all of their brands as of the spring/summer 2018 show season, and aims to better protect the wellbeing of models.

“Respecting the dignity of every man and woman is at the heart of both group’s values,” read a release on behalf of both groups.

“Having always cared for the well-being of models, LVMH and Kering feel that they have a specific responsibility, as leaders in the industry, to go one step further with their brands.”

The fashion industry is fighting back following sexual harassment allegations against photographer Mario Testino [Photo: Getty]

According to Sara Ziff, model and Model Alliance founder, recent events have given the fashion industry the chance to make a real difference to not only improve practices within their own industry, but others too.

“In an industry that’s essentially built on the backs of women and girls, who are all trying to have a voice in their work, it’s powerful to join together,” she told Harpers Bazaar.

“The fashion industry now has an opportunity not only to solve these issues for itself, but also to be a model for other industries.”

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