On Tuesday, Model Alliance, a non-profit research and advocacy organisation, announced that several models had signed a letter addressed to John Mehas, the US lingerie brand’s chief executive.
The organisation posted a copy of the letter on Twitter which reads: “In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models.
"While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria’s Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation."
The letter is signed by representatives from the Hollywood-led initiative Time’s Up, fashion photographers Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin and former Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive.
.@VictoriasSecret: It's #Time4RESPECT. #TIMESUP is proud to co-sign a letter with @ModelAllianceNY demanding that Victoria's Secret take action to protect their models from sexual harassment at work.
Learn more here: https://t.co/ork5WIU6HJ pic.twitter.com/NzbiCkr0mX— TIME'S UP (@TIMESUPNOW)August 6, 2019
Signatories of the letter call on the lingerie company to sign up to the Model Alliance’s Respect programme that promises to protect contractors such as models, photographers, agents and vendors against sexual harassment.
The programme, which was launched last year, also has an independent regulator to investigate complaints, as well as providing education and training. Companies signed up to the programme promise to make a commitment to its values.
“Respect goes beyond words of sympathy and band-aid fixes, and works towards prevention by empowering models to identify and uproot these abuses, backed by the environment power of the top companies in fashion,” the organisation’s website reads.
An excerpt of the petition mentions the relationship between Les Wexner, chairman and CEO of Victoria’s Secret’s parent brand L Brands, and billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The New York Times recently reported that Epstein presented himself to models as a scout for the brand. Wexner has denied any knowledge of such conduct. Last month, L Brands’ board of directors said it had hired an outside law firm to conduct a review of Epstein’s role at the retail company.
The letter also alludes to allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers such as Timur Emek and David Bellemere.
"It is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged," it reads.
News of the petition comes hours after it was reported Ed Razek, Victoria’s Secret’s chief marketing officer, had resigned from the company after joining in 1983.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Razek’s departure was revealed to employees on Monday in an internal memo from Wexner.
In a statement provided to The Independent, Razek confirmed the news: "A few weeks ago, I shared with Les [Wexner] my desire to retire sometime around mid August. It was a tough conversation to have because, as some of you must know, we have shared so much together for so many years. Including a deep love of this business. Still, it’s time."
The Independent has contacted Victoria’s Secret for comment.