In a new report led by the renowned Boston Globe investigative team depicted in Oscar-nominated film “Spotlight,” a number of new photographers and stylists have been implicated in the fashion industry’s ongoing problem with sexual harassment and misconduct. The report, which was published on February 16th, names highly influential photographers Patrick Demarchelier, David Bellemere, Greg Kadel, Andre Passos and Seth Sabal as well as stylist Karl Templer. Many of the models and agents interviewed for the report remained anonymous or went by pseudonyms out of fear of retaliation.
Patrick Demarchelier, a celebrated fashion photographer who has shot for publications and brands including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Moschino, Dior, Louis Vuitton and countless others was apparently dropped by Condé Nast in December. The company communicated its decision to Demarchelier in early February, spurred by an e-mail sent to Vogue editor Anna Wintour by one of the photographer’s former assistants that detailed his relentless advances dating back to when she was a 19-year-old intern. The Globe interviewed six other women who accused Demarchelier of unwanted sexual advances, including “thrusting a model’s hands onto her genitals and grabbing another model’s breasts, as well as making vulgar propositions.”
The Globe details a similar pattern of behavior in David Bellemere, whose alleged behavior was so well-known that two agents told the “Spotlight” team they stopped sending models to shoot with him years ago. In 2016, Victoria’s Secret cut ties with him after several of the brand’s Angels complained about incidents of inappropriate touching and kissing. Bellemere defended his actions by stating that any physical contact with models was the result of “pushing the girl to pose, directing…I do it to get the best picture,” he said. “It’s not harassment.”
Greg Kadel, a photographer who has also worked with Victoria’s Secret, is alleged to have sexually exploited a number of female models, often insisting that models pose nude or topless. One model described a disturbing incident that took place when she was still in high school. Her agent took her to a fashion party where she was given cocaine and alcohol. At the end of the night, Kadel got into a cab with the intoxicated model and directed the driver to a hotel. Once there, he allegedly raped her. Three of the model’s friends and former agents corroborated her account. The Globe reviewed e-mail exchanges between the model and Kadel, as well as topless photographs Kadel took of her when she was a minor. Victoria’s Secret has suspended its relationship with Kadel.
As for Andre Passos, former model Dasha Alexander said she was only 15-years-old when he inserted his fingers in her vagina while taking her picture. In the case of Seth Sabal, three models accused the photographer sexual harassment during the mid-2000s. One of them was 17 when she was given alcohol and asked to take off her underwear as Sabal allegedly shot up her skirt. Passos and Sabal both deny the allegations.
Photographers are not the only ones contributing to fashion’s sexual misconduct problem. Three female models accused stylist Karl Templer of “yanking their breasts, touching their crotches, or aggressively pulling down their underwear without asking them” during shoots. Templer dismissed the allegations as “vague and anonymous.”
Following the New York Times exposé of Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, as well as model Cameron Russell’s open call for accounts of sexual misconduct (under the hashtag #myjobshouldnotincludeabuse), the Globe report corroborates numerous stories that reveal fashion as an industry rife with exploitation. Models are systematically encouraged to do things they aren’t comfortable with, from posing nude to sleeping with powerful fashion fixtures, in the name of money and success. Models who spoke to the Globe said their agents “gave them drugs and alcohol, withheld earnings, coerced them into sexual relationships as teenagers, failed to inform them that photo shoots would require nudity, encouraged them to sleep with photographers to advance their careers, and sent them to sets with known predators,” among other transgressions. Though Condé Nast has begun to address fashion’s deep-rooted problems with a new code of conduct, there are many more steps to be taken to undo the industry’s rampant abuse of power.