Time magazine named as its 2017 Person of the Year “The Silence Breakers.” These are individual women and men who came forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment and abuse. This social movement aimed at raising awareness about sexual harassment and assault has been epitomized by the #MeToo social media hashtag.
Since news of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct flooded the airwaves and Twitter feeds, people not only in Hollywood but also in fashion have used their platforms to speak out against harassment in the workplace.
The trillion-dollar fashion industry is partly based on selling consumers a fantasy. That fantasy apparently turned into a nightmare for model Jason Boyce, who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against famed photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber. Model Mark Ricketson also recently detailed allegations of sexual harassment against Weber at a press conference.
Weber is the second high-profile photographer to be called out for reports of sexual misconduct in recent months. Condé Nast International announced that it would no longer be working with the iconic lensman Terry Richardson amid sexual harassment allegations.
Some industry insiders question whether there is a deeper crisis in the fashion industry that goes beyond just two photographers. Supermodel Christy Turlington has spoken out on how widespread sexual abuse and harassment is in the industry, highlighting the way fashion can disempower the individual. Model Cameron Russell wrote the following on Instagram: “Bullying by editors, photographers, stylists, and clients … Publishing nudity after contractually agreeing not to. Non-consensual massage. Inappropriate emails, text messages, and phone calls. I lose count.”
The fashion industry doesn’t necessarily have traditional HR departments and there are a few people who have a huge amount of power. These aren’t structured environments, and sometimes that means the stage – or runway – is set for abuse. Is a culture that worships photographers and belittles models to blame? Is a broader and more systemic approach required to combat these issues?
The Federal Bar Association’s 5th Annual Fashion Law Conference features an impressive lineup of attorneys and industry speakers who will address the latest developments, best practices and key legal guidance for clients and practitioners involved in the world of fashion. Our panelists in the “Employment and Labor Considerations in the Fashion Industry” segment including Katherine Gonzalez (Capital Member, Ferraiuoli LLC); Kevin Kahn (Associate Counsel, IMG New York); and Sweetjoy Johansson (The Medici Group) will discuss issues currently affecting the fashion workplace from an employment law perspective covering sexual harassment scandals, preventive practices to avoid liability, strategies to fix diversity profiles and the right way to contract independent contractors.
Join us on Friday, February 9 in New York City at The New School. Register at http://www.fedbar.org/Education/Calendar-CLE-events/2018-Fashion-Law-Seminar.aspx on or before January 5, 2018 to take advantage of early bird rates.
Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.