In the turn of the new year, calls to take action against sexual violence has become a forceful movement in every industry. Many powerful figures are being called out for their mistreatment along the lines of sexual assault, and more victims are sharing their personal stories. The fashion industry is not exempt from this narrative. Recently, famed fashion photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino have been accused of sexual misconduct.
Both photographers have worked with high profile clients, including Vogue, GQ and Calvin Klein. Weber and Testino also share a common ground in starting in photography in the late 1970s. The allegations against both men come from models and assistants who previously worked with either photographer, spanning back to four decades ago.
A lawsuit made by model Jason Boyce against Weber was filed on the first day of December 2017. The New York Post recounts the incident occurring in 2014 at Weber’s New York City studio. The suit states that after Boyce had posed for several photographs, Weber removed the model’s clothing and ordered him to follow obscene tasks. Boyce’s experience led him to quit modeling all together.
The suit states, “He was worried that he would continue to run into Mr. Weber throughout his career. He experienced anxiety, depression and high levels of stress.”
Following Jason Boyce’s case, more victims of Bruce Weber came forward. One of the most recent allegations is by former model D.L. Janney. Business of Fashion shares his story of working with the photographer, all the way back to 1982, where Janey claims Weber made him strip down for two photoshoots, one which also included his brother. After refusing, Janney was blacklisted from the fashion industry and never worked in modeling again.
Allegations against Testino came out during the second week of 2018. Reports found that Testino had a disturbing reputation among staff of making unwanted advances onto young men he hired.
In a Gucci campaign from 20 years ago, model Ryan Locke states that he experienced an uncomfortable encounter with the photographer when they met in a casting call. During the shoot, Locke said Testino locked the door and began to climb on the bed, which was a prop on set.
He recalls, “I went at him, like, you better get away. I threw the towel on him, put my clothes on and walked out.” Tom Ford, creative director of Gucci at the time, claims he was completely unaware of any harassment that went on.
Testino through his lawyers states that these cases “cannot be considered reliable sources.” Bruce Weber denies all claims made against him.
Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour, states that the publication Condé Nast have put a hold on working with both photographers and have set new guidelines to avoid sexual abuse.
These guidelines include a policy that all models must be 18 years or older (if they are part of a news story and are underage, they must have a chaperone) and a ban on alcohol and drugs on any of their sets. Condé Nast also states that photographers must be approved by the company to use a set, and shoots involving nudity, sheer clothing, lingerie or swimwear have to be approved in advance.
Fashion brands are also taking a stand against assault. Burberry, Michael Kors and Stuart Weitzman, all which Mario Testino has shot campaigns for, have pledged to not work with him in the future.
Anna Wintour addresses this issue stating, “Even as we stand with victims of abuse and misconduct, we must also hold a mirror up to ourselves—and ask if we are doing our utmost to protect those we work with so that unacceptable conduct never happens on our watch.”
The movements taking action against sexual assault are paving ways for how industries are handling this issue. As shown in these cases, there is a presence of predators in the fashion world. Mario Testino and Bruce Weber are two examples of the abuse of power still prevalent in today’s society. With more victims’ voices being heard and more companies taking action, leaders of the fashion industry seem to be taking more steps into creating safe work environments where there is no tolerance for mistreatment.