DNA Model Management doesn’t think it can be blamed for model Adwoa Aboah defecting to rival agency Lions.
In urging a Manhattan Supreme Court to dismiss Lions’ September allegations that DNA poached Aboah, with the help of her fashionably connected mother, in breach of her representation contract, DNA said the model was simply “unhappy” and only switched agencies after her deal with Lions was terminated.
“This is not the first case where one model management firm, being angry because a model was unhappy and left for a competitor, commenced an action against the new firm,” DNA wrote in its filing.
DNA went on to argue that Lions’ sole interference with contract claim is “rote” and “conclusory” with no basis for relief, because the agency is “entitled to compete fairly with rival management companies”
As for the claim being also made against its cofounder, David Bonnouvrier, DNA said the law clearly protects individuals against personal liability in relation to corporate business decisions.
“The complaint is devoid of any allegation Bonnouvrier acted outside the scope neither of his authority nor for his own personal interests,” DNA wrote. “The complaint only alleges Bonnouvrier was aware Aboah was a party to a ‘valid and enforceable contract’ with plaintiff. The fact that plaintiff represented Aboah was not a state secret.”
DNA added that it never discussed representing Aboah until after her agreement with Lions was terminated, which was done with the help of an attorney, because she was “dissatisfied.” The idea that Aboah didn’t have the right to terminate her contract is also not mentioned in Lions’ complaint, according to DNA.
Under New York law, employment is deemed “at will” by both parties, meaning either can end an employment agreement at any time without explanation, unless contractually specified otherwise.
“Models are not indentured servants and are free to move from one management firm to another,” DNA added. “If they have a contract with the prior firm, that is between the model and the prior firm.”
In its complaint, Lions also accused Camilla Lowther, founder of CLM Agency and Aboah’s mother, of participating in a concerted effort to get the model a deal with DNA.
Lions pointed out that Aboah’s mother Lowther is a personal friend of Bonnouvrier, and claimed that he told the agency that Lowther is “very powerful in the fashion industry” and if Aboah was not released from her contract, she would “attempt to harm the Lions business.”
CLM represents creatives across the fashion editorial industry, including photographers Tim Walker and Juergen Teller, and stylists Katie Grand and Venetia Scott, who recently took up the style director position at British Vogue left open by the clamorous exit of Lucinda Chambers.
Lions also claimed that during its representation of Aboah, she went from getting “virtually no modeling fees” to being “one of the top models in the United States,” and that as recently as July, she expressed “being very happy” with the agency.
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