MILAN — Fashion brands and magazine titles quickly moved to sever ties with famed photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber after the allegations of sexual exploitation by both photographers in a New York Times story published on Saturday.
Meanwhile, speculation raged during the men’s shows in Milan over which other well-known photographers might be caught up in the scandal, with some stylists and fashion editors saying up to 10 more names could come out. Sexual exploitation and harassment has long been known to take place during fashion shoots for the last several decades, but both brands and magazine editors have generally turned a blind eye to it, observers said.
Both Testino and Weber made their careers and fortunes on shooting ad campaigns, while editorial work pays much less. On Saturday, both Michael Kors and Stuart Weitzman said they would no longer be working with Testino on future advertising campaigns.
The sexual misconduct story comes amid a widening scandal in the fashion industry involving photographers’ treatment of male and female models alike. On Saturday, WWD posted an open letter by male model Christopher Cates calling for models to stand up to harassment.
Condé Nast issued a statement Saturday condemning sexual exploitation of any kind.
“We are deeply disturbed by these accusations and take this very seriously, as previously noted in our statement regarding sexual harassment,” said Bob Sauerberg, Condé’s chief executive officer, and Anna Wintour, the publisher’s artistic director and the editor in chief of Vogue, which has worked regularly with Testino for decades. Testino had a major role in the documentary on Vogue, “The September Issue,” for example, and he has been a regular guest at the Met Gala overseen by Wintour.
“In light of these allegations, we will not be commissioning any new work with Bruce Weber or Mario Testino for the foreseeable future,” their statement said.
A Condé spokesperson said separately that two projects with the photographers have already gone to press: A W fashion shoot with Weber and a Vogue shoot with Testino. “However, no new shoots will be commissioned,” the spokesperson said.
Separately, Condé Nast International said in a statement that “in light of these allegations Condé Nast International will not be commissioning any new work with Mario Testino or Bruce Weber for the foreseeable future.”
A company spokesperson for Michael Kors Holdings Ltd., said, “We recently learned of the allegations concerning Mario Testino. In light of the seriousness of these accusations, we will not be working with Mr. Testino on future advertising campaigns.”
Wendy Kahn, chief executive officer and brand president of Stuart Weitzman, said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened by the allegations in today’s article. We take these accusations very seriously and providing a safe and secure working environment where everyone feels respected is our foremost priority. As a result, we will not be working with Mario Testino for the foreseeable future.”
It is understood that Burberry, which has not worked with Testino since 2016, has no plans to do so for the foreseeable future. Testino’s most recent campaign for Burberry was for My Burberry Black with Lily James in August 2016.
A Burberry spokesperson said, “We take allegations of this nature very seriously. Burberry is committed to providing a just, safe and fair working environment and we have a zero-tolerance policy against any form of harassment, abuse or discrimination. The safety, security and welfare of the people with whom we work is a priority for Burberry and we seek to ensure all our partners adhere to our principles and policies and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.”
A spokesperson for Ralph Lauren, which frequently uses Weber to shoot its ad campaigns, said, “The allegations reported in the recent New York Times article are completely contrary to our values, and to our commitment to creating an environment where our employees and outside partners feel welcome, safe and can perform at their best. We will not do business with anyone who behaves in a way that compromises this commitment.”
Testino’s spokeswoman said they aren’t issuing a statement at this time.
A statement from Weber reads: “I’m completely shocked and saddened by the outrageous claims being made against me, which I absolutely deny. I have used common breathing exercises and professionally photographed thousands of nude models over my career, but never touched anyone inappropriately. Given my life’s work, these twisted and untrue allegations are truly disheartening. I’ve been taking pictures for over 40 years and have the utmost respect for everyone I’ve ever photographed. I would never, ever, try to hurt anyone or prevent someone from succeeding — it’s just not in my character.”
Last October, Condé Nast confirmed it would no longer be working with the photographer Terry Richardson who is known for his sexually explicit work.
As reported by WWD last fall, the Times has been working on a story about harassment in the fashion world since October. The Times also reported Saturday that Condé had issued a code of conduct for photographers and models — which Sauerberg and Wintour claimed it had been preparing since October — that includes not using models under age 18; no alcohol on sets, and that photographers, makeup artists and stylists should not be alone with models.
Katie Grand, the editor of Love magazine, the London-based Condé Nast title, said she worked closely with Condé Nast International, Edie Campbell and Ciara Byrne on the Condé Nast Charter. “I sincerely hope this will inspire change within our working environments and urge more men to come forward. It’s positive that we have found the language to speak about the abuse of men, who have been silent for so long.”
The British Fashion Council issued a statement Sunday, which said, “We are deeply concerned by the accounts raised over the past couple of days. The industry needs to take these accounts seriously, and we want to ensure that the fashion industry is one we are all proud to work in, that there is zero tolerance on sexual harassment and that everyone treats those they work with, with respect. While we haven’t had individual accounts raised directly with us, we do feel that there is a need for a coordinated approach to stamp out unacceptable practices.
“Last month, the British Fashion Council joined forces with the BFMAA and launched the Models First initiative in order to set best practice for the industry by supporting and protecting models, talent and employees, to stamp out any form of maltreatment or abuse. The British Fashion Council’s Positive Fashion Initiative will work hard in 2018 to promote and celebrate diversity, inclusivity and openness and encourage fashion to be used as a platform to promote global positive change,” the BFC said.
Diane von Furstenberg, chairwoman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which issues its own set of guidelines against sexual harassment and to ensure models are healthy during the runway shows, said, “The fashion world has always been aspirational and a dream for young people to work in. It is therefore very important and timely for us all in the industry to make efforts to protect models and all employees against abuse of power in the workplace.”
Steven Kolb, chief executive officer of the CFDA, added, “CFDA appreciates the leadership Condé Nast has taken to protect individuals from assault and abuse and as an organization that represents American fashion, we pledge our commitment to their code of conduct and encourage the entire industry to do the same.”
Reached for comment Saturday, David Lipman, owner of Lipman Studio, a New York-based ad agency, said, “I’m very sad today. Mario [Testino] is my friend.” Over the years, Lipman has worked with Testino on campaigns for such major brands as Burberry, Stuart Weitzman, St. John, Lord & Taylor and Smartwater.
“I’m bewildered by all of it. I worked with him hundreds of days and that’s never happened on any of my shoots. He’s not a quiet man, he’s Peruvian and has great humor and is great fun, and when I read it, I questioned it,” said Lipman.
When asked whether he would follow Condé Nast’s new code of conduct, he said, “I think I am who I am and that will never change. I stand for high morals and I love sexuality and love beauty. We all have to be responsible.” He recalled when he was young and there were drugs on the Seventies shoots that he wasn’t part of and certain photographers got blackballed.
Lipman noted that since he started his new ad agency he hasn’t worked with Testino “for no reason but it hasn’t worked out.”
Sam Shahid, owner of Shahid & Co., the New York ad agency said, “I’ve known Bruce [Weber] for over 30 years and we’ve done Calvin Klein, Abercrombie and Versace campaigns together, and I never saw that behavior. I know some of the people who spoke out. They worshipped Bruce. That’s why I was shocked.”
Kim Vernon, president and chief executive officer of Vernon Company, a New York consulting firm, was previously executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Calvin Klein Inc., where she did approximately 60 shoots a year. “I think Condé Nast is taking the appropriate action by ceasing to work with both of these photographers, and I think it’s commendable the difficult decision that Michael Kors made. I think Condé Nast’s decision to create and enforce a code of ethics is very positive. As one of the most respected media companies in the world, it sets a strong example,” she said.
“One of the key elements of the code relates to the ‘personal’ shoots that have often piggy-backed on the main shoot,” said Vernon. “From a brand perspective, most of the abuses have happened during those editorial shoots, where the castings and sets are owned by the photographer, not related to a brand advertising campaign casting or set. Over the years, I was on many, many sets, with provocative creative, and never once was a model compromised. Any model uncomfortable with a pose, or partial nudity, was exempt. So I am very clear, you can create provocative pictures without compromising an individual,” said Vernon.
She said that all brands who usually pay top rates to photographers, stylists, etc. should insist on positive and healthy working environments on their sets, and media companies should do the same.
She added that the age limitation is not a new concept and those rules were put in place years ago when she was at Calvin Klein. “But the real issue are the agents, who have at times, encouraged models to ‘do what it takes’ to work with top photographers and get campaigns. We had models arriving to the set and lying about their age several times, which clearly the agents knew of. “As for alcohol and minors in a working environment, it is simply not acceptable and I am a bit surprised this needed a mandate.”
James Scully, a casting director, said that a lot of photographers, modeling agents, casting directors and editors sat in on those Condé Nast meetings for several months to develop a code of conduct. “It wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to what happened,” he said. “I think the Kering and LVMH charter [for the well-being of models] opened a conversation to the ethics on the job.
“I think it’s just the beginning. We’re now in a world where secrets don’t exist anymore, and this new generation has no problem calling people out. Maybe this will even out some things. It’s a cleansing out of sorts,” he said.
Kensington Palace has declined to comment on the story. Testino has been shooting the British royals for decades starting with Princess Diana, and in 2014 he was awarded an honorary OBE or Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth for his services to photography and charity. He shot the official engagement photograph of Kate Middleton and Prince William in 2010, and was the official photographer for Princess Charlotte’s christening in 2015. He has also photographed Prince Charles with Princess William and Harry.