CEO John Mehas was called out by Model Alliance, regarding the issue of the culture of misogyny, bullying, and harassment at Victoria’s Secret that is even more egregious and more entrenched than previously understood.
Victoria’s Secret is the largest and most well-known lingerie retailer in the US for several decades. Since the late 1990s, Victorias Secret has been the most talked-about brand in the country.
The brand used to be synonymous with flirty lingerie, over-the-top angel wings, and drop-dead-gorgeous models. But that’s not really the case anymore.
Last Wednesday, more than 100 models signed a petition to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas urging him to take steps to address the violence reported to have occurred at the brand. It was reported that lots of repeated complaints of inappropriate conduct towards models and employees: Body shaming, lewd remarks, crotch-grabbing, retaliation for rebuffing advances, unauthorized use of models’ images, and pressures to pose nude without pay for a photographer’s personal shoots, has been happening inside.
According to a news report, the brand has a dark history of ‘misogyny, bullying, and harassment’ according to interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors, and models, as well as court filings and other documents. The publication reported that Ed Razek, who is one of the top executives at L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, has had multiple complaints about his inappropriate conduct. Ed Razek tried to kiss models, he asked them to sit on his lap, and in the 2018 Victoria’s Secret fashion show he touched one’s crotched.
“We believe that this moment can be a wake-up call for Victoria’s Secret,” the letter says, citing The Times’ report as the impetus for its drafting.
Model Alliance is a non-profit research, founded in February 2012 by model Sara Ziff. Its main advocacy is to provide a discreet grievance reporting service. It also advocates for the enforcement of existing child labor and contract laws, and in promoting equal opportunity and fosters a culture of accountability in the fashion industry.
And now, Model Alliance is using its platform to demand Victoria’s Secret change its ways. It urges Victoria’s Secret to join the nonprofit RESPECT Program, wherein participating companies commit to upholding a code of conduct to ensure safety within a job.
“Victoria’s Secret’s failure to create an environment of accountability, both in-house and in their interactions with a network of agencies and creatives, undermines these values,” the organization continued. “We envision an industry in which creative expression flourishes and everyone can work without fear of harassment or abuse. This is why we launched the RESPECT Program, and are again urging Victoria’s Secret to join us in creating a safer, more equitable fashion industry.”
Sara Ziff, a longtime model, and the founder and executive director of the Model Alliance said in a statement to Business Insider that the Alliance has been talking to L Brands about harassment issues for several months.
“It is both frustrating and deeply disturbing that Victoria’s Secret/L Brands still have not taken models’ concerns about their safety at work seriously,” Ziff said.
The organization also alleged that Victoria’s Secret didn’t take the “complaints seriously.”
“The time for listening is long past; it’s time for Victoria’s Secret to take action to protect the people they profit from. Human rights violations can’t be stopped with a corporate rebranding exercise,“ the company added on their letter addressed to CEO John Mehas.