Cape Town – Victoria's Secret garnered a considerable amount of negative publicity in recent years, so much so that the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show has been axed for 2019. Now, following reports of sexual misconduct within the industry, in an open letter to the lingerie line's chief executive officer, models are urging Victoria's Secret to support and protect young models.
"Dear Mr Mehas," the Model Alliance wrote. "We are writing today to express our concern for the safety and wellbeing of the models and young women who aspire to model for Victoria's Secret. 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."
The letter referenced the allegations against various men working within the industry, most notably registered sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein.
Jeffrey made headlines when he posed as a talent scout for Victoria's Secret before allegedly sexually assaulting Alicia Arden in 1997. Jeffrey was friends with, or rather a "close adviser" to Leslie H. Wexner – the CEO of L Brands, Victoria's Secret's sister brand, according to The New York Times.
In their explosive article on Jeffrey, they traced how "through his proximity to Mr Wexner, Mr Epstein gained unique access to young women".
"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," the Model Alliance wrote.
The signatories, which include Milla Jovovich, Christy Turlington Burns and is backed by the TIME'S UP movement, urges Victoria's Secret to join the RESPECT Program.
The anti-sexual harassment program aims to ensure everyone who works within the industry and is contracted by a particular brand, follows a specific code of conduct that protects everyone's safety on the job.
The program also hopes to ensure models are well aware of their rights with the aid of specialised training programmes to prevent sexual misconduct, while also providing access to an independent, confidential system in which they can come forward if they feel they're being mistreated in any way.
"Every day, fashion brands, publishing companies, and agencies set the norms of what's acceptable and what's not in fashion. If Victoria's Secret were to take a stand against these abuses and commit to meaningful change by joining the RESPECT Program, this would go a long way in helping our industry chart a new path forward," explained the Model Alliance.
"Victoria's Secret, change can start with you. Together, we can lead the industry to RESPECT. Join us."