The Lions isn’t giving up on its lawsuit against DNA, accusing the rival modeling agency of poaching Adwoa Aboah after she became a highly sought-after face.
Lions told a New York court this week that when it signed Aboah in early 2015, she was earning $25,000 a year as a model and by the summer of last year, that number had jumped to $1 million. Shortly after Aboah reached that earning power, she was spirited away to join DNA, allegedly the result of a scheme between Aboah’s fashionably connected mother, Camilla Lowther, and her “close friend,” DNA cofounder David Bonnouvrier.
Aboah is not a defendant in the suit, while Lowther and Bonnouvrier are accused of inducing her breach of contract and defection to DNA late last year, allegedly costing Lions “substantial fees” from deals that were being negotiated, like a campaign with an unarmed but “major” cosmetics company. The agency is seeking unspecified damages.
Lowther at the end of December pushed the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing she did nothing intentional or improper, and that her daughter is not actually accused of breaching any contract because she held the right to end her representation.
“Essentially, the complaint pleads that Ms. Aboah left LMM [Lions Model Management] even though she was enjoying success as a model,” Lowther wrote in her motion. “Who’s to say that those successes were the work of LMM? Not LMM. And who’s to say that even with those successes, LMM had performed its other obligations, such as billing and collections, making advances and providing Ms. Aboah with career advice and guidance? Again, not LMM.”
Bonnouvrier and DNA also argued in October that Aboah held the right to terminate her contract, and that they are likewise “entitled to compete fairly with rival management companies.” The agency added that models are “not indentured servants and are free to move from one management firm to another.”
But Lions this week tried to argue that beyond having a contract to represent Aboah exclusively in the U.S. for three years, it also served as the federal sponsor for her work visa, which as a citizen of the U.K., “limited Aboah to working exclusively through the Lions.”
But over the summer Lions claims that Lowther and Bonnouvrier got Aboah a work visa through DNA, which was granted at the start of September, and only then did Lowther allegedly “direct” Aboah to terminate her contract with Lions. Lowther had also allegedly negotiated a reduced commission fee with DNA, meaning Aboah would take home more money than she had at Lions.
When Lions refused to release Aboah, she and Lowther allegedly “made it known that [Lowther] would use her influence to cause problems for the Lions in the fashion industry,” Lions said. The agency added that around the time it started negotiating with Aboah, DNA “had been suffering with model defections and needed a renowned model to help its business.”
Lowther runs CLM Agency, which 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.
Regardless of the defendants’ arguments for dismissal, Lions said the “tortious interference” with Aboah’s contract by Lowther and Bonnouvrier is clear, and urged the court to move the case on to the discovery phase.
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