edie campbell pens candid essay on the industry’s toxic culture of power and abuse

“We all know that it spreads far, far further than one man.”

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09 November 2017, 11:15pm

From a series of after-work convos to an open letter on WWD, I’m incredibly proud of my friend, 27-year-old British model and i-D cover star Edie Campbell, for penning a thoroughly thought-provoking and refreshingly honest essay that details the fashion industry’s toxic culture of power and abuse.

Calling for a an internationally-wide pause and long-needed moment of reflection, Edie makes a plea for industry-insiders -- from model agents to casting directors, stylists to models themselves -- to be held accountable for what she sees as a broken system and the culture of silence and by extension complicity that surrounds it.

“We have a problem,” she writes. “We operate within a culture that is too accepting of abuse, in all of its manifestations. This can be the ritual humiliation of models, belittling of assistants, power plays and screaming fits. We have come to see this as simply a part of the job.”

“We have a problem. We operate within a culture that is too accepting of abuse, in all of its manifestations. This can be the ritual humiliation of models, belittling of assistants, power plays and screaming fits. We have come to see this as simply a part of the job.”

So far, coverage of the industry’s culture of abuse has been pinned to American photographer Terry Richardson, where 10-year-old stories about his nefarious antics are being rehashed. It was only the other week that Condé Nast publicly disassociated themselves from him. For Edie, this is simply not enough. “We all know that it spreads far, far further than one man,” she continues. “But the other men and women, the photographers and the stylists, the casting directors and art directors, and the model agents and the models -- they’re too powerful. And we’re shooting a big ad campaign with them next week... Once you start pointing fingers, where does the buck stop? And to put it simply: our morals don’t always align with the money.”

Later on, she also goes on to question the mainstream media’s silence surrounding fashion’s male victims, of which there are many. And what about those victims of abuse that aren’t sexual? Too often the industry celebrates what Edie describes as “diva” behaviour and the notion of the “artist-genius”, so much so that it’s willing to overlook the widespread maltreatment of interns, models and assistants.

“This is a moment for us all to examine the behaviour we have normalised,” she concludes. “Fashion is a closed world, and fiercely self-protective. But it is time to reassess, and it is time to start regulating ourselves.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.