Model and activist Cameron Russell, 30, began sharing stories on her Instagram feed last week, explaining that she wanted to shine a light on abuse of young, often inexperienced models by seasoned professionals in the business.
“Hearing about #harveyweinstein this week has sparked conversations about how widespread and how familiar his behavior is,” Russell wrote on her Instagram feed and has encouraged correspondents contributing their stories to publicly use the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse “so the industry can see the size and scope of this problem”.
Among dozens of entries, many writers have described how, as young women often with little experience, they were left unguarded and vulnerable to predators, many of them photographers, agents, clients and bookers. One described how she was assaulted by an unnamed photographer when she was 15 years old for the sake of “making the pic look more sensual”.
As the feed has gathered stories, it has received hundreds of “likes”, including some from well-known models. But Russell wrote that the Instagram accounts should not be seen as an exposé “because nothing in these stories should be a revelation for those working in our industry”.
Russell’s call for the fashion industry to reform have been joined by supermodel Christy Turlington Burns. She told WWD that she felt fortunate that she had not been abused, but added: “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry.”
Turlington, who is married to the actor and documentary maker Edward Burns, continued: “The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experienced at some point in our careers.”
The model, who now runs a not-for-profit organization that trains midwives in Guatemala, said that there were many times early in her career when she had flown abroad for an assignment to find herself entrusted to the care of “some creepy playboy type”.
“In hindsight, I fear I may have played the ‘honeypot’ that has been described in the stories about these predators who make other women feel protected. Unknowingly, but still an accomplice of sorts.”
The Weinstein scandal is now placing the fashion industry in the crosshairs.
Weinstein is married to a fashion designer, Georgina Chapman, and was frequently seen in the front row at his wife’s catwalk shows with senior industry executives. The couple have now separated, Chapman has announced.
“Fashion is far from a feminist nirvana, but it has, historically, been an industry with great career opportunities for women,” wrote New York magazine fashion writer Amy Larocca. “But if you zoom out of the offices, fashion has a whole world of problems.”
Larocca drew attention to the close parallels between becoming a famous, award-winning actor in a Weinstein-produced film and debuting as a fashion magazine cover star.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Harvey Weinstein loved fashion, but what is surprising is just how much fashion loved Harvey Weinstein back. Shouldn’t everything about this leering, groping, heavy-breathing man have set off all the alarms of this female-dominated industry?”
It’s a question that’s now reverberating through the business. Last week, the Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, added her voice, denouncing Weinstein’s behavior as “disgraceful and unacceptable”.
In her Instagram feed, Russell said she believed the Weinstein scandal would be “the beginning of a power shift” for young women in the fashion business. “We are speaking to each other, we are speaking up, we are speaking to lawyers, and we are speaking to well resourced reporters.”
On her own experience, Russell wrote: “On many occasions I’ve been called a feminist for reporting unwanted groping, spanking, pinching, pressure for dates, phone calls and texts of a sexual nature, lack of appropriate changing areas, etc.”
More than 40 women have accused Weinstein of sexual assault and harassment following the publication of investigations by the New York Times and the New Yorker. Following the revelations, Weinstein was sacked by the board of his company.
Weinstein has “unequivocally denied” all allegations of non-consensual sex. “With respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual,” a spokesperson for the producer said.