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100 models sign open letter to Victoria's Secret to end sexual misconduct

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

7 Aug 2019

Over 100 models have signed an open letter to Victoria's Secret to express their concern for the safety and wellbeing of models and young women who aspire to model for the lingerie brand.

The letter comes at a time when disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, now a convicted sex offender, was seen to have a connection with Victoria's Secret and parent company L Brands. There have also been allegations of sexual misconduct directed at photographers who worked with Victoria's Secret.

The models are calling on the troubled brand to join the Respect Program created by The Model Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit that promotes “fair treatment, equal opportunity and sustainable practices in the fashion industry.”

Models call for protection against sexual misconduct

The open letter, which is drafted by America's Model Alliance and signed by Time's Up charity organisation and fashion luminaries including Inez and Vinoodh, Christy Turlington Burns, Erin O'Connor and Doutzen Kroes, calls for an end to sexual misconduct directed at models.

The letter states: "In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models. 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. 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."

“Corporations tend to treat the discovery of abuses as public-relations crises to be managed rather than human-rights violations to be remedied,” says Sara Ziff, the founder and executive director of the Model Alliance. “The Respect Program provides Victoria’s Secret an opportunity not only to right the wrongs of the past but also to work towards prevention.”

A Victoria’s Secret spokeswoman told WWD: “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.”

In July the New York Times reported that executives at L Brands knew Jeffrey Epstein was pitching himself as a model recruiter for Victoria's Secret. He allegedly posed as a talent scout and "lured" a woman into his hotel room and attacked her.

Photo credit: Jewel Samad / AFP