8 Fashion figures and celebrity photographers who have been accused of sexual misconduct
TW: trash men
In late 2017, the #MeToo movement went viral as a long list of sexual allegations against American film producer Harvey Weinstein came to light. This led to an unprecedented number of women coming forward with the sexual harassment they’ve faced, especially in the workplace. But did you know that the phrase ‘Me Too’ has been used by American civil rights activist Tarana Burke since 2006? Actress Alyssa Milano’s #MeToo tweet in 2017 started a conversation, and it became a call to action for women who have been a victim of sexual assault. It didn’t take too long for people to react to it. Women in Hollywood—artists, executives, producers, and other leaders—in particular, founded the Time’s Up movement, which aims to prevent abuse and ensure equity for all working women. A Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund was also launched, and as of December 2018, more than USD 22 million was raised to help with the legal fees for cases where women experience sexual misconduct.
In Malaysia, an anonymous letter surfaced in Dec 2018 alleging sexual harassment in BFM89.9. Although the radio station has fired two of its staff over it, the writer claimed that the allegations had been brought to the company’s attention previously, but no action was taken. Founder Malek Ali later expressed his thoughts in a statement, saying: “The BFM management team acknowledges that more could have been done to proactively gather evidence so that such misconduct could have been addressed in a more timely manner.” One thing’s for sure: A lot more could still be done.
Fast forward nearly two years later, while the #MeToo movement has put organisations and us, as women, on alert, it’s sad to see that sexual misconduct is still a huge problem, especially in the fashion industry. The list keeps getting longer—although it’s comforting to see fashion brands and publications have now taken a zero-tolerance stand against the allegations. With the help of social media, models and influencers alike have no qualms about exposing the abusive situations they’ve encountered, and the context is infuriating, to say the least. Read on for the lowdown of what has happened so far.
Mario Testino (and Bruce Weber) are arguably two of the most famous fashion photographers in the industry. The 54-year-old has shot for the most prominent names from publications, and brands to the It-listers internationally, and has enjoyed a successful career spanning four decades. In January 2018, Testino was accused by 13 male assistants and models who worked with him in the ’90s. They claimed that he groped them and masturbated in front of them during shoots in the past.
While Testino and Weber both denied all allegations, Condé Nast—the publisher of high-fashion magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ and more—issued a statement saying, “We are deeply disturbed by these accusations and take this very seriously—as previously noted in our statement regarding sexual harassment. In light of these allegations, we will not be commissioning any new work with them for the foreseeable future.” Michael Kors and Stuart Weitzman also said that they would no longer be working with him. Five allegations came to light two months later, with four of the incidents occurring after 2010.
Bruce Weber is also another legendary fashion photographer on our list. In December 2017, he was accused by male model Jason Boyce of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed in the New York State Supreme Court. In the filing, the model alleges that Weber inappropriately touched him during a photoshoot in 2014 at the Manhattan studio. It didn’t take too long for a second model, Mark Ricketson, to come forward with similar claims.
By the end of December, five unnamed male models filed a new lawsuit in Manhattan’s Federal Court, detailing that the photographer lured them with the promise of career advancement and subjected them to a “breathing exercise” that ended with molestation. Like Testino, he was also dropped by Condé Nast a month after the accusations surfaced, but a year later, in early 2019, Weber’s legal team fired back, calling the allegations “outrageous”. The team has also submitted the racy texts and pictures sent to Weber from Boyce, asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
Alexander Wang was previously known as one of the best and most fashion-forward designers of this generation, but that perception quickly took a 180-degree turn when several accounts of Wang’s predatory behaviour came to light in 2020. The core of Alexander Wang’s brand is synonymous with his extravagant party animal lifestyle: non-conformist nightlife glamour, and the idea that “anything goes”—but it seems that the fame and power have gotten to his head, and there were no boundaries to his carefree modus operandi.
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The first victim to come forward was British model Owen Mooney, who took to TikTok to share his encounter with Wang at a crowded New York nightclub in 2017, stating that he was frozen in shock when the designer groped his crotch. “I was by myself at one point and this guy next to me obviously took advantage of the fact that no one could move. And he just started touching me up. Fully up my leg, in my crotch. It made me freeze completely because I was in so much shock,” Mooney said.
Shortly after, more allegations began pouring out in streams; some even claimed that they were drugged or had their bodies publicly exposed by Wang. “I was dancing near him when he reached out his hand, grabbed my bikini bottoms and dragged it downward in front of everyone. As a trans woman with discomfort about certain parts of myself that I’ve since grown to love, I don’t want someone to expose my entire body like that,” said DJ Gia Garrison, who met Wang at a club in 2017. In total, there are eleven victims that came forward, all of which were male, female or transgender models who had worked with the New York designer. And what did he do in response to the allegations? Deny all of it, of course! In an Instagram post Wang shared in January 2021, the designer “acknowledged” his offences stating that he “regrets acting in a way that caused them pain.”
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As if his “apology” wasn’t already lousy enough, Wang later explained to People that the allegations were “grotesquely false.” He added, “Seeing these lies about me being perpetuated as truths have been infuriating. I have never engaged in the atrocious behaviour described and would never conduct myself in the manner that’s been alleged. I intend to get to the bottom of this and hold accountable whoever is responsible for originating these claims and viciously spreading them online.”
Wang also addressed the claims made against him in a memo sent to the DailyMail, saying that he “will do everything in my power to guide us through this process with the utmost transparency” and then proceeded to add that the allegations were “false, fabricated and mostly anonymous accusations against me” and he has “never taken advantage of others in a sexual manner or forced anything on anyone without consent.”
Lisa Bloom, a high-profile lawyer who represented the 11 victims, later revealed that Wang secretly met up with the victims to “hear their truth and apologise to them.” Bloom added that they are moving forward, but refused to clarify if a financial settlement (hush money) was involved. But let’s be real—if they weren’t silenced with money, why the refusal to comment? Was it to hide the fact that the allegations were, in fact, true?
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The worst part is, Wang still has a thriving career in the industry and continues to be supported by major celebrities such as Rihanna, Julia Fox, Adriana Lima, CL and Kim Kardashian, amongst many others—which raises the question: Why are they protecting an unapologetic sexual predator?
Despite years of sexual assault allegations and reports of lewd behaviour on set (some of them date back to 2001), American fashion and portrait photographer Terry Richardson—known for his often explicit work—continued to be one of the celebrated names in the industry. But at the peak of the #MeToo movement in 2017, with the number of allegations rising, Condé Nast sent out an internal email announcing that it will cut ties with Richardson and that any work commissioned with him should be “killed or substituted with other material”. Valentino and Bvlgari also followed suit.
In a statement to The Telegraph, his spokeswoman said: “He is an artist who has been known for his sexually explicit work, so many of his professional interactions with subjects were sexual and explicit in nature, but all of the subjects of his work participated consensually.” In January 2018, it was reported that the photographer is under investigation by the New York City Police Department’s Special Victims Squad, although he has yet to be criminally charged.
In February 2018, the Boston Globe released an extensive report, where more than 50 male and female models talk about the sexual misconduct they’ve experienced on the job throughout the years. The list includes top models such as Abbey Lee and Coco Rocha. Among the 25 names that include photographers, agents, stylists, casting directors and other industry professionals, iconic French photographer Patrick Demarchelier was no doubt the biggest shocker on the list. Over seven women reported the photographer’s unwanted sexual advances, groping on set and making suggestive comments. One of his former photo assistants also claimed that he made relentless advances towards her. Like the rest, Condé Nast also announced that they had informed Demarchelier that they will not be working with him for the foreseeable future, although he denies the allegations, saying that “People lie and they tell stories. It’s ridiculous.”
It all started when Los Angeles-based model Sunnaya Nash first posted screenshots of her conversation with celebrity photographer Marcus Hyde—who has worked closely with A-listers including Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West, Ariana Grande and more. In the messages, he requested nude photos of her so he could see “if she’s worth it” before agreeing to do a photoshoot, stating that it would cost USD$2,000 otherwise. Diet Prada, who learned about the controversy, quickly picked up the story, escalating it to viral status. From there on, many more accusations against Hyde surfaced, mostly on how he sexually assaulted them and inappropriately touched them on set.
Ariana Grande was the first to respond. The singer took to Instagram Stories to express her disappointment. “Please do not shoot with photographers who make you uncomfortable or make you feel like you need to take your clothing off if you don’t want to,” she wrote. “If you want to, sick, but if you don’t, please don’t. If they tell you to have to pay more money if you’re clothed, that’s f—ked, and I’m sorry that has happened to you. I promise there are so many respectful, nice, talented photographers out there.” A day later, Kim Kardashian West also responded, stating her disbelief over his behaviour. On her Instagram Stories, she wrote, “My own experiences have always been professional, and I am deeply shocked, saddened and disappointed to learn that other women have had very different experiences,” she wrote. “I stand in full support of every woman’s right to not be harassed, asked, or pressured to do anything they are not comfortable with. We cannot allow this type of behaviour to go unnoticed, and I applaud those who speak out.” Instagram has disabled Hyde’s account for violating the sexual solicitation policy.
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Shortly after the Marcus Hyde saga, more women spoke out against another male photographer—Timur Emek. The celebrity creative who has shot for Victoria’s Secret was also accused of sexual misconduct. One model named Haley Bowman recounted an incident where he allegedly pulled down her shirt and forced her hand onto his crotch during a shoot. The photographer also allegedly offered to help model Julia Francina in the fashion industry in exchange for “some fun”. When she asked what he meant, he replied: “I am a man… think about it.” One even accused Emek of rape. Like Marcus Hyde, Instagram also took down his account.
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Gérald Marie is a person that can be described in many ways, particularly with words that are one and the same with revolting, heinous, monstrous, despicable—you get the gist. Marie was one of the most powerful men in fashion who held the helm at Elite Models Management, a prestigious modelling agency that represented some of the biggest supermodels in the industry, such as Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Heidi Klum, and Gisele Bündchen. With such power over numerous young women with big dreams of pursuing a career under his management, Marie wasted no opportunity in taking advantage of his dominance to satisfy his sick, twisted predatory desires, turning the agency into his very own sex ring.
During his tenure at the agency, Marie has allegedly committed a string of sexual offences against multiple models, primarily targeting younger women as young as 14 because he thought that “virgins were not photogenic,” according to a former employee. Laurie Marsden, a top model in the 1980s who unfortunately had Marie as her agent, claimed that he waited for her outside a bathroom at a house party and attacked her as soon as she stepped out. “He jumped on top of me, and he had me pinned down and tried to rape me. I finally got out from under him, and then I fled,” Marsden shared with CBS News. She added, “There was no question that he was there for sex. And the fact that he wasn’t stopping, and the fact that he was pulling my clothes off, there came a moment where I said to myself, ‘You are going to be raped.'”
Marie also kept tabs on his victims, even grading them on a point-based system, drugging them with a constant stream of cocaine to keep their weight down, and trafficking them to other wealthy men—he was referred to as the Harvey Weinstein of the fashion industry. Jill Dodd, a model signed under Elite in the ‘80s, revealed that Saudi billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi paid the agency $50,000 to meet Dodd at a party—which she initially refused to attend but did anyway out of fear after Marie had raped her.
However, Dodd was unaware of the transaction until a year into her relationship with Khashoggi. “’I found out because I saw him doing it with other women. He was looking through a notebook of composites from modelling agencies who were saying, ‘Pick the girl you want to be with, and you pay this price, and we’ll get her to you’. I had no idea that had been done to me,” she recalled.
Fifteen women have reported Marie’s abuse to French authorities, all of which he has (spoiler alert) denied ever happening. The reports brought upon a criminal investigation that spanned more than two years, although he remains a free man to this day after French prosecutors closed the case as the alleged offences had “taken place too long ago to be prosecuted.” Marie has since retired and has never been charged with a crime.
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