In the course of the last year alone, the topic of sexual harassment and its victims have been thrust into the spotlight, effectively heightening awareness and spurring the formation of widespread movements — #MeToo and #TimesUp — that empower victims and encourage them to heal.
However, it is imperative to note that this work is far from over. Hated as they may be, countless sexual predators still roam free, undetected, on the prowl, and entrenched in sectors other than Hollywood, politics, and media.
While sexual harassment and assault have touched nearly every part of the workforce, it has ravaged every level of the fashion industry for decades, affecting everyone from designers and models to those who work in the garment and supply chains. Now, thanks to the visibility this issue has earned, individuals and organizations alike are stepping forward to ensure these women are safe and valued, regardless of their location.
With that fact in mind, let us take the time to highlight these entities and the ways in which they seek to protect women in the fashion industry.
Near the end of 2016, the Global Fund for Women began a collaboration with C&A Foundation to eradicate gender-based violence and empower female garment workers in Asia. This feat would be achieved by finding, funding, and strengthening organizations local to the world’s largest garment producers — Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, and Vietnam — that are working to end violence against these women.
Furthermore, these organizations would send materials designed to educate workers on their rights, how to secure them, and how they can become leaders in implementing systematic change.
After the Harvey Weinstein scandal sparked outrage, emboldening men and women across the nation to speak out about their own horrific experiences, one woman in power decided to take a portion of the matter into her own hands.
In October 2017, New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic announced she would be introducing a new amendment to the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Dubbed the Models’ Harassment Protection Act, this change would extend more comprehensive protection to models by holding designers, photographers, retailers, and others accountable for any abuse that would take place on their watch.
Although this bill is only in the beginning stages of becoming law, it has been widely received, garnering positive feedback and support from lawmakers and the public alike.
Fashion is meant to celebrate art and life, not act as a breeding ground for egregious and unforgivable crimes. While substantial, structural change may be a long way off, it is imperative those of us in the industry strive to maintain its true values and protect one another. Therefore, may we not remain silent, but loudly support those who work to preserve women’s rights to safety and freedom of expressing their creativity and imagination — just as the fashion industry was meant to be.