This year has been a moment of reckoning for the fashion industry. Ever since Hollywood adopted the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, models began speaking out about the sexual abuse and harassment they’ve experienced at the hands of leading photographers, designers and agencies, hoping to finally transform the injustices within the industry. Today, over 100 models, including Teddy Quinlivan, Doutzen Kroes and Mila Jovovich signed an open letter as part of the newly launched RESPECT Program that urges brands and agencies to adopt safer working environments for all models and other employees.
“As models, our images serve a commercial purpose, but our bodies remain ours,” it reads. “We are calling on agencies, publishing companies and fashion brands to join RESPECT, a program that is rooted in commitment to real change.”
In partnership with Model Alliance, which was founded by former model Sarah Ziff, RESPECT encourages models to share their experiences in order to stress the need for change within the industry.
“We are also calling on fellow models to share their experiences and add their voices to make RESPECT as comprehensive as possible,” says the open letter.
Their goal, it states, is to “enable a working environment in which creative collaboration and self-expression flourishes, and everyone can work without fear of harassment, abuse, discrimination or violence.” To do so, they plan to “create a workplace of dignity and respect,” “educate all models and stakeholders on their rights and responsibilities,” “protect transparency and models’ right to speak up,” “go beyond voluntary company policies to enforceable commitments” and “address economic vulnerability.”
“The conversation on the way models are treated has finally started to pick up traction and attention, but solutions to these problems have been introduced by companies and organizations without including models themselves in the dialogue,” says Quinlivan on the RESPECT website. “The Model Alliance’s priority is to create a safer industry where models at any point in their career can work in an environment free of abuse of any kind.”