Abuse Allegations in the Fashion Industry – Will They Ever Be Taken Seriously?

Was it really 2017 that #MeToo was trending? After a flurry of high-profile sexual predators were called out in the film industry – and in some cases almost entirely canceled (film producer Harvey Weinstein is currently serving 23 years in US prison after being charged with rape and sexual harassment, following accusations from over 80 women). But what about allegations of abuse in the fashion industry?

In late 2020, Alexander Wang was accused by 11 men and trans women of allegations including drugging, assaulting, harassing and abuse. Most of the incidents are alleged to have taken place in LGBT nightclubs and the accusers included a number of queer men.

After initially denying the allegations (“Seeing these lies about me being perpetuated as truths has been infuriating”) Wang released the following statement: “I regret acting in a way that caused them pain. While we disagree on some of the details… I will set a better example. ” So, what happened next?

Last week, Alexander Wang held a comeback catwalk show in LA, supported by 800 attendees with supermodels on the catwalk and celebs on the front row.

I’ve worked in the fashion industry for over twenty years… I love the way that clothes – essentially inanimate objects – can change our mood, transform our sense of self and offer a way of connecting with the world around us, or cocooning us from it if we feel like it. Clothes (and shoes, jewelery, hats and handbags) hold an alchemical wonder for me.

But there’s plenty I despise about the fashion industry unfa the unfair and unkind sizing system; the untenable practice of sending unsold stock (and returns) to landfills or incineration; overproduction; sample sizes from designers that don’t fit even the slimmest of models, leading to eating disorders and body image issues within the industry and across society at large; systematic racism; exploitation of garment workers in the Global South (see: systematic racism.)

And right now, I’m most angry – although not unsurprised – about the industry’s response (or lack thereof) to the allegations made against Alexander Wang.

The fashion pack seems to have memories shorter than a Miu Miu miniskirt but I wonder, why? Is it because Wang’s alleged assaults were against a number of queer men and the trans community? Was it more palatable for the film industry’s reckoning (featuring powerful men and women meeting society’s narrow beauty standards) to receive continued press coverage? Were they happy to accept Wang’s denial and promise to set a better example in the future and move on?

When I’m styling a shoot or planning a feature there are several brands I steer clear of including major names that have been called out, as well as smaller ones that I’ve heard stories about within my own circle. They don’t deserve the oxygen of exposure. After the Alexander Wang allegations, I gave my three Wang bags to a charity shop. It doesn’t align with the person I want to be. It would be the equivalent of Melania Trump’s Zara Park, daubed with the slogan, “I really don’t care, do u?” That’s not the person I want to be or think the fashion industry should encourage.

Wang isn’t the first person in the fashion industry to be accused of transgressing the law, abuse, assault or breaking the most basic of moral codes. Photographers Bruce Weber, Terry Richardson, Mario Testino, and the late Patrick Demarchelier were alleged assaulters and have faded from the industry’s favor. They have all denied any wrongdoing.

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