Over 1oo models signed an open letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas on Wednesday, urging him to take steps to end abuse alleged to have happened at the company. 
The Model Alliance, a nonprofit that provides support to people in the fashion industry, drafted the letter, which urges Victoria’s Secret to join the nonprofit’s RESPECT Program, wherein participating companies commit to upholding a code of conduct to ensure safety within a job.
The New York Times recently published a report that detailed a “culture of misogyny, bullying, and harassment” at Victoria’s Secret that current and former executives, employees, contractors, and models say was fostered by Ed Razek and Les Wexner, two top executives at the lingerie brand’s parent company, L Brands.
“We believe that this moment can be a wake-up call for Victoria’s Secret,” the letter reads, citing the Times’ report as the impetus for its drafting. 
Sources told the Times that Razek, a former executive at L Brands who stepped down in October 2019, asked women to sit on his lap and kiss him.
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.
In a statement to Business Insider, an L Brands spokesperson wrote: “We absolutely share a common goal with Model Alliance to ensure the safety and wellbeing of models. Our robust Photo Shoot Procedures, including training and oversight, were implemented in May 2019 and reflect elements of the RESPECT Program and beyond. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made and remain committed to continuous improvement. We’re always open to engage with those looking to make improvements in the industry.”
Wexner is reportedly looking to sell Victoria’s Secret and step down as CEO.
Dear Mr. Mehas,
The Model Alliance met with L Brands/Victoria’s Secret five months ago and proposed that the company take concrete action to change its culture of misogyny and abuse. The company refused to act. L Brands/Victoria’s Secret declined to make binding commitments to protect models and other workers from harassment by joining the RESPECT Program.
We write today because the New York Times investigative report “‘Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret,” shows that the culture of misogyny, bullying, and harassment at Victoria’s Secret is even more egregious and more entrenched than previously understood. The Times reports 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. According to Casey Crowe Taylor, a former public relations employee, “This abuse was just laughed off and accepted as normal […] And anyone who tried to do anything about it wasn’t just ignored. They were punished.” This is deeply disturbing but not surprising, as we have seen similar issues many times throughout our industry. However, the intense retaliation used by Victoria’s Secret to silence those who reported misconduct is particularly deplorable. Indeed, The Times called Victoria’s Secret “a case study in the wrong way to deal with allegations of misconduct.”
When the Model Alliance met with Tammy Roberts Myers, Chief Communications Officer of L Brands in New York City last September, it was made abundantly clear that Victoria’s Secret does not take these complaints seriously. In a follow-up email she told us that Victoria’s Secret was not ready to take any concrete steps towards addressing these allegations – rather, the company is simply, “in the process of continued learning and listening”. In the face of the horrifying revelations from the past year, this response is utterly unacceptable. 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.
We believe that this moment can be a wake-up call for Victoria’s Secret. This is an opportunity to take meaningful steps towards ending these abuses by joining the RESPECT Program, as models have called for since December 2018. The RESPECT Program—a program of the Model Alliance—is the only existing accountability program designed by and for models. Under the Program, signatory companies make a binding commitment to require their employees, agents, vendors, photographers and other contractors to follow a code of conduct that protects everyone’s safety on the job. Models have access to an independent, confidential complaint mechanism, with swift and fair resolution of complaints and appropriate consequences for abusers. Further, RESPECT includes a robust training program aimed toward prevention, to ensure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.
The Model Alliance believes in safety, freedom to work without fear of harassment, and real consequences for abusers. 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. 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.
We invite Victoria’s Secret to work together with us to address these problems and to engage in meaningful action by joining the RESPECT Program. We stand with the courageous women who have come forward and shared their stories, despite fears of retaliation or harm to their careers.
Their stories deserve RESPECT.
Join us.
Model Alliance