As five more fashion photographers and a well-established stylist have come under fire for alleged sexual misconduct, the accused and some of the clients they work with are proceeding with caution.
Fashion executives and designers continued to reel Monday from the bombshell exposé by The Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigative team last week that highlighted allegations against photographers Patrick Demarchelier, David Bellemere, Greg Kadel, Seth Sabal and Andre Passos and stylist Karl Templer. The Globe’s reporters interviewed more than 50 models — mostly female — who “made credible allegations of sexual misconduct against at least 25 photographers, agents, stylists, casting directors and other industry professionals,” the story stated. The article only identified the six men, however.
Each of the accused denied the claims in the Globe article, while the brands and magazines they have worked with have adopted different strategies. Many brands declined to comment at all about what actions they might take. But following inquiries from the Globe, Condé Nast said it had severed ties with Demarchelier and Condé Nast International has done the same with Kadel “for the foreseeable future.”
Bellemere repeatedly insisted his innocence in an interview with WWD on Sunday. Templer also stated his case in a letter to WWD issued Monday: “Over nearly 30 years, working with thousands of models, always in public settings, I have never engaged in (and it has never before been suggested that I have engaged in) inappropriate behavior of any kind with models. A stylist’s movement of clothes multiple times — over three decades and possibly tens of thousands of interactions — is not the same as sexual predation or sexual harassment or touching with the intent of self-gratification,” he wrote.
In the letter to WWD, Templer said, “It’s impossible for me to defend myself as I’ve been given no information to which I can respond. I understand the Globe’s policy but, in this matter, how can I prove myself when I have been refused dates (even approximate years) or locations, which would have given me the chance to offer other witnesses to give their perspective? I haven’t been told whether this was supposed to have happened 25 years ago or 10 or five or last year. That makes it almost impossible for me to clear my name, as I find myself judged and publicly shamed.”
He continued, “Interactions such as the ones alleged would have been observed by at least 10 people, closely scrutinizing every move: the photographer instructing on adjustments that they would like made to clothes; a makeup person who would be less than a couple of feet away making adjustments to body makeup the minute that any clothing is moved, even by a millimeter; the hair stylist would be present; the photographer’s assistants who would be adjusting lighting; assorted production people, and the art director. All of these people watch every detail of the shot being set up. It’s their job to do that; they’re not in the background. There would also be my team, which is made up of at least three to four women, standing within a few feet of me and the model. In fact, I made it a practice, of my own volition, over a decade ago, to have only my female team members dress models in the changing area, the only private area on set. I work on large-scale, elaborate sets, never in small, private environments. With the exception of my team, none of these individuals are hired by me, and I am not the ultimate decision maker on who is booked nor which model is chosen.”
Demarchelier, Sabal and Passos did not respond to WWD requests for further comment. A representative for Kadel would only reiterate what had been stated in the Globe story, in relation to claims of unwanted sexual advances, saying, “Mr. Kadel never sexually coerced or assaulted anyone in his life…”
In this post-Weinstein era, this latest round of allegations only magnifies recent reports of alleged mistreatment in an industry that relies on attractive, sometimes teenage, models to connect with consumers. Executives at Hearst did not respond to requests for comment regarding their working status with the six individuals highlighted in the Globe story.
Executives at Dior and Moncler declined comment Monday regarding their working status with Templer. Fabien Baron, who also has worked with Templer, did not respond to a request for comment. Representatives at Valentino declined comment Tuesday. Other brands that have or planned to worked with any of the accused — Zara, Dior, Tommy Hilfiger, Coach, Clinique and Maybelline among them — did not respond to requests for comment. Executives at Dior also declined comment regarding the Globe’s reference that one model said that during a shoot she was called “a whore” and a “hooker” by a Dior executive.
Calvin Klein, meanwhile, is trying to be proactive by creating its own policy, as reported in the Globe story. That is expected to be unveiled in the next few weeks, a company spokeswoman told WWD last week. Before this month’s New York Fashion Week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America made safety more of a priority. In her pre-fashion week e-mail to members, CFDA chairman Diane von Furstenberg emphasized the importance of creating a safe environment, and asking designers, show producers and photographers to consider using venues for shoots and runway shows that have areas where models had the option of changing in privacy. The industry’s issue with sexual misconduct isn’t limited to photographers. Sexual misconduct-related allegations and lawsuits have been filed against Russell Simmons and Guess’ Paul Marciano. Both executives have denied any wrongdoing.
Last fall, Condé Nast axed Terry Richardson from its roster and in January the publishing giant cut ties with Mario Testino and Bruce Weber after a front-page story in The New York Times alleged the two photographers had harassed male models for years. When the Times article appeared, Condé Nast happened to issue a code of conduct to protect models.
In many instances, Spotlight reporters verified the accounts with third parties or examined records such as e-mails. Nearly 60 percent of models interviewed by the Globe said “they had been touched inappropriately during work-related situations, the violations ranging from unwanted kissing to rape,” according to the story. The story noted “many complained that they can’t fully defend themselves when the Globe protects the identities of alleged victims, including by not always disclosing names, dates and locations to them.”
Victoria’s Secret, which dropped Bellemere for alleged “inappropriate kissing and touching,” is conducting a third-party investigation into the allegations detailed in the Globe story. A company spokeswoman said, “We are a company that celebrates and serves women, so this behavior could not be more contrary to who we are. We do not tolerate harassment of any kind. We have not hesitated to investigate allegations of inappropriate behavior and to terminate employment with those accused — including freelance photographers — where appropriate.”
But Bellemere vehemently denied any wrongdoing, insisting Victoria’s Secret never gave him specifics about what he allegedly has done. In the interview with WWD, he suggested that an on-set tiff with hairstylist Danielle Priano — whose sister, Michelle, is the company’s director of photo production — may have been a factor. Bellemere also said a police investigation is underway in Lyon, France, into the model Yann Labrosse for allegedly impersonating him with a fake Instagram account and soliciting models for a phony Victoria’s Secret casting. Police officials confirmed an investigation is ongoing. Representatives for Labrosse at Mademoiselle Agency did not respond to requests for comment.
Regardless of the reason for dropping him a while ago, Bellemere is no longer working with Victoria’s Secret. He said his bookings through June, including an $80,000 job with Maybelline, have been postponed or suspended due to the Globe’s story. Maybelline did not respond to requests for comment.
Bellemere plans to meet this week with some modeling agents, designers and other people in the industry who still support him to see where things might go from here. “I’ve always been clear. I always talk from my heart. But I will understand if all my friends can’t work with me because they will lose business, I won’t lose them as friends. I love them so I want the best for them,” he said. “I don’t want to destroy their lives and be the dirty thing on their jobs.…But it should not happen. Everything has to be fixed.”
His suggestions included creating industrywide standards; requiring that models have chaperones or agents on sets; having models and photographers sign off on a report after each shoot to ensure safe working conditions were upheld; arranging for boarding for young models; training them about drug prevention and social media protocol, and a help line for individuals to report any problems and get guidance.
Just as Testino and Weber lost Burberry and Michael Kors as clients for their alleged actions, Bellemere understands what’s at stake. “I’m destroyed. I’m receiving messages on Instagram all day. It’s awful to wake up to every morning. They want to drop me. [They’re saying,] ‘Burn in hell.’ ‘You’re a piece of s–t.’ ‘Your career is done.’ It’s too much,” he said. “I’ve given my best all my life for the industry — for all those girls….They are destroying people. They are destroying lives. My daughter is crying. It’s too much. I’m going to lose everything.”
Templer also addressed a need for change in the industry. “I don’t want to come across as a complainer. I love my job. I love fashion. I’m proud of my work, and I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to work with many of my heroes. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous individuals in our industry who wrongfully exploit their position of power, as there are in many industries. Those people deserve to be exposed, to face justice and to be prevented from working.
“But I am not one of them. I do believe that it’s right and proper that everyone should be held to account for their behavior, in every walk of life. I believe passionately that models should all be treated with the utmost respect, as should any woman or any person in the workplace. I accept being part of an industry that can sometimes treat models as a commodity and that’s wrong. All of us who work in fashion have a duty of care to address this. I am determined to clear my name. I want only the opportunity to be heard and to counter allegations that I — and the hundreds of individuals who’ve worked with me — know to be implausible and untrue,” Templer said.