KARL UNDER FIRE: The Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff blasted Karl Largerfeld for his “disgraceful comments” in a Numero Magazine interview last week, noting how they “underscore just how much work we still have to do.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Ziff said, “While not surprising (Lagerfeld is well-known for offensive comments and body-shaming women for their weight and appearance), Lagerfeld’s assertion that models should ‘join a nunnery’ if they don’t want their pants pulled down is, nonetheless, outrageous.”
Ziff opened her statement with, “Recent months have seen a seismic shift in public discussion of sexual misconduct in the workplace — and the fashion industry is no exception — yet it is clear that we as a society are only just beginning to understand the size and scope of the problem.”
The activist wrote, “Demeaning treatment and pervasive conditions of sexual harassment and abuse have plagued the fashion industry for far too long — and as they are finally coming to light, the people who enable these conditions must be held accountable. Mr. Lagerfeld’s flippant dismissal of reports of abuse, and his characterization of models who have come forward as ‘stupid,’ ‘toxic’ and ‘sordid creatures’ who should quit their profession if they do not like how they are treated surely demands action.”
In the April 12 Numero interview, the designer also defended stylist Karl Templer, who is among a number of high-profile men who models have accused of inappropriate behavior. Templer has repeatedly denied the claims, which first surfaced in a Boston Globe investigative piece.
Attesting the industry “has previously met such remarks with tacit acceptance, this much is clear: attitudes like Lagerfeld’s carry the day no longer,” Ziff wrote. “From The New York Times and the Boston Globe, to the public posting of long lists of the names of accused perpetrators — fashion models and others who have been preyed upon for years are finding their voice and speaking up. Moreover, consumers are increasingly demanding higher ethical standards in the products they buy. While overwhelming, this historical moment presents leaders in the fashion industry with an opportunity to be pathfinders in responding to this plea for action.”
Other public figures have criticized Lagerfeld for his controversial remarks, including Chrissy Teigen, who told her 10.3 million Twitter followers April 13 “that he’s ‘FED UP’ with the #MeToo movement.” She tweeted, “Surely there is an in-between here, Karl.” There were 127,625 likes Wednesday morning. One of her followers, Joanna Tristao, responded, “Remember when he did a ‘feminist’ show?” posting an image of Lagerfeld leading a pack of sign-carrying models down a runway. “Be Your Own Stylist,” “Boys Should Get Pregnant Too” and “Make Fashion Not War” were some of their messages. The image was from the finale of Chanel’s spring 2015 show.
Rose McGowan also weighed in Monday via Instagram and called for a boycott of Chanel. Posting an image of herself with a nun she identified as “Sister Irene,” McGowan wrote, “Karl Lagerfeld Slams #MeToo Movement: ‘If You Don’t Want Your Pants Pulled About, Join a Nunnery.’ Karl, I read your disgusting quote last night. It made me feel dirty. This morning I met Sister Irene and she made me feel light. I’m sure Sister Irene will forgive you for being a dinosaur misogynist but I think you’re a mean, small, black soul and I don’t. You’ve made so much money off of women’s insecurities, it’s time for you to ride off into the misogynistic sunset. #BoycottChanel.”
Ziff noted how the Model Alliance “has responded to this call to action by developing a robust, industry-wide program that provides, among other things: comprehensive education and training to models about their rights on the job; a secure complaint mechanism and an independent monitoring body to investigate allegations of abuse; meaningful remedies for victims; increased financial transparency and security for models (thereby eliminating factors that often leave models vulnerable to abuse), and, real accountability.”
She continued, “The Model Alliance and its allies refuse to tolerate bullying or abuse — be it physical or verbal — in our industry. The fashion industry should be a place where creativity and self-expression flourishes, and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect on the job. Times have changed — and, with it, fashion’s moral standing and accountability must as well.”