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Group of High-Profile Models Come Together to Support Claims of Sexual Harassment

At the invitation of French prosecutors, a group of female models flew to Paris this month to present their claims of sexual harassment against Gérald Marie, former agent and prior European chief of Elite Model Management. The women have accused Marie of sexually assaulting them in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time, Marie was one of the most powerful men in the fashion industry. In late 2020, French prosecutors opened an investigation into criminal complaints by four women. A total of 24 women have publicly shared complaints about Marie’s conduct. The primary complainant, Carré Sutton, alleged Marie repeatedly raped her as a teenage model in the industry. The women stated Marie retaliated against them if they rejected him, making sure their work as models dried up. Several women asserted that after Marie sexually assaulted them, they were offered great modeling jobs. Many of the models told The Guardian that they did not disclose what Marie did out of fear of him and his power. Marie continued to work in the modeling industry until very recently.

Model Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group for fashion workers, has been supporting the women and offering resources, including legal support. The Model Alliance created the RESPECT program, hoping to implement comprehensive industry standards that includes a Code of Conduct and a way to bring forward complaints of harassment. The program would be legally binding and require anti-sexual harassment training. No major modeling agency has agreed to sign on to the program. According to the program’s founder, the fashion industry has largely escaped accountability following the #MeToo Movement, offering limited options to hold individuals accountable.