At the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in Denmark on Wednesday, 100 models grouped together to announce the Respect program, which aims to end sexual harassment in the fashion industry.
The new program, led by Model Alliance founder Sara Ziff, asks brands, modeling agencies, and media outlets to sign a contract to protect models. With the legally-binding agreement, models can file complaints through a confidential process, protecting them from retaliation and guaranteeing an investigation by an independent source.
Models including Karen Elson, Doutzen Kroes, Teddy Quinlivan, Milla Jovovich, Edie Campbell, and more signed an open letter calling on agencies, publishers, and designers to join Respect “in a commitment to real change.”
“The program establishes an orderly and fair process for addressing charges of abuse. It provides comprehensive training and education to models and all industry participants,” Ziff said in an interview with WWD. “This system benefits models, photographers and other service providers, and every company that wants to do the right thing. The only people who don’t benefit are the harassers themselves.”
The Respect program comes after the industry was rocked by reports at the beginning of this year that prominent fashion photographers like Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Terry Richardson, and Patrick Demarchelier have allegedly sexually harassed or abused models.
In February, Model Alliance partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to provide private changing areas for models ahead of New York Fashion Week. That same month, the CFDA also released a statement outlining the organization’s three main focuses of health, safety, and diversity to prevent abuse and misconduct. “We have zero tolerance for unsafe environments and strongly encourage everyone in our industry to report abuse in the workplace,” the statement read.
The Respect program follows these initiatives in protecting models, and Ziff said to WWD that she’s encouraged by the response. “I think everyone is very aware of the problems in our industry and others and now we finally are able to move towards solutions,” she said.