On Tuesday, August 6, an open letter signed by more than 100 Victoria’s Secret models was released. Addressed directly to the lingerie-brand’s CEO, John Mehas and created by the Model Alliance, the letter urges the company to take actions to protect models and prevent abuse and sexual misconduct.
“In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models,” the letter begins. “While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria’s Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation.”
The Model Alliance specifically calls out recent cases against alleged sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein and Victoria’s Secret fashion photographers. “From the headlines about L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner’s close friend and associate, Jeffrey Epstein, to the allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel, it is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls.”
The Model Alliance encourages Victoria’s Secret to take action by joining the RESPECT Program, a non-profit, legal agreement created by models in 2018 in an effort to end abuse in the fashion industry. “We are calling on Victoria’s Secret to take meaningful action to protect its talent and those who aspire to work with the company,” they write. “Victoria’s Secret has the opportunity to be a leader, to use its power and influence to bring about the changes that are urgently needed in our industry. Every day, fashion brands, publishing companies, and agencies set the norms of what’s acceptable and what’s not in fashion. If Victoria’s Secret were to take a stand against these abuses and commit to meaningful change by joining the RESPECT Program, this would go a long way in helping our industry chart a new path forward.”
By signing onto the Respect Program, Victoria’s Secret would be answering to the request of the Model Alliance and demonstrating its commitment to a new future. A Victoria’s Secret spokesperson told Glamour in response to the open letter, “We are always concerned about the welfare of our models and want to continue to have dialogue with the Model Alliance and others to accomplish meaningful progress in the industry.”
This news comes on the heels of the news that Ed Razek, the CMO of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, L Brands, announced he’s retiring at the end of the month. And just last week, it was reported that this year’s Victoria’s Secret 2019 Fashion Show is cancelled.