In a perfectly timed move, one that coincided with the New York Times' exposé that revealed handfuls of allegations that famed photographer Bruce Weber and Mario Testino were engaging in repeated sexual harassment behavior, Condé Nast announced that it was working on a Code of Conduct. Given that Weber was responsible for imagery for both British and American Vogue for their December 2017 issues (which were revealed just before male model Jason Boyce filed a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against Weber), and Testino worked with Vogue as recently as its February 2017 issue (he shot the Serena Williams cover), Vogue’s parent company needed to do something.
The Code is a momentous first step. It is significant that Condé Nast, one of the industry's media leaders, has taken public steps to address the rampant mistreatment of models and other creatives by some the fashion's most well-established and influential figures.
Having said that, the Code, itself, is interesting, in large part because it arguably consists almost entirely of provisions that should have been in place all along for all Condé Nast publications (and certainly may have been to an extent) as a result of various existing laws, including various state criminal laws, civil statutes, and special fashion-focused legislation in New York.
For instance, requiring that models under age 18 be accompanied by a chaperone is, in may cases, already required by the "Child Model Law," in New York, a law that went into effect in November 2013, classifying models under the age of 18 as “child performers” and giving them protection in conjunction with the state’s Department of Labor.
Another provision reads: "All participants in a photo or video shoot must act professionally and refrain from harassment of any kind. Unacceptable conduct includes but is not limited to the following: Physical threats or assaults." This should be a pretty obvious one, as assault is both a criminal offense and also a civil one (if viewed in accordance with tort law). Similarly, the ban on "the consumption of illegal drugs (including the misuse of prescription drugs) on the premises of a shoot" goes without saying, really, since "illegal drug" use is ... well, illegal.
More intriguing than the obvious provisions that are not in any way new (as they are required by law, regardless of whether they are in a Code of Conduct or not) is the seeming burden shifting that is explicitly described in the Code. For instance, one provision states: "In the event a shoot calls for subjects younger than 18 ... the agency must ensure compliance with any applicable labor laws, including child labor laws."
While it may be industry-wide practice for model management companies to ensure that child labor laws are observed in connection with their models, by placing this responsibility solely on the models' management companies, Condé Nast is sidestepping responsibility (and ideally for them, liability) in case of wrongdoing or foul play. This may be perfectly legal, but it also does not necessarily do much to ward off any of the impropriety has has occurred to date.
This ties over to the next point, which reads, "All work performed during a photo or video shoot must be in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including but not limited to labour, wage and hour, and immigration laws." Given that Condé Nast just previously placed the onus on agencies to ensure that laws are upheld in regards to models, it is unclear who is responsible for ensuring that all work performed during a photo or video shoot is actually in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. This lack of clarity does not bode well for concrete change.
In short: Condé Nast's Code of Conduct, which can be found in full below, is a good start, and it is, in fact, an applause-worthy effort. Additional provisions – such as those with increased specificity, particularly when it comes to entities' responsibilities and what action will be taken when breaches of the Code (and in many instances, state law) are found because saying "all necessary steps will be taken" is not enough – should be added if we really want to ensure that models do not fall prey to foul play going forth.
And still yet, all parties must commit to change, as putting something in writing and actually enforcing it are two different things,
No Harassment or Discrimination
Everyone working on projects for Condé Nast should be treated with dignity and respect. All work done for Condé Nast must be performed in a professional manner, free of any form of discrimination or harassment. Any inappropriate conduct toward others, including but not limited to that based on an individual’s sex, race, color, weight, body shape, size, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, marital or domestic-partnership status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, will not be tolerated.
We expect that all companies and vendors working with Condé Nast have clearly communicated equal employment opportunity and anti-harassment policies. Condé Nast may request a copy of these policies.
Photo and video shoots must be professional environments. Any disrespectful or inappropriate conduct toward others, including but not limited to that based on an individual’s sex, race, colour, weight, body shape, size, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, marital or domestic-partnership status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, will not be tolerated.
Every shoot performed for Condé Nast must adhere to the following guidelines:
· All models must be at least 18 years old. Exceptions will be made for subjects appearing as themselves as part of a profile or news report. In the event a shoot calls for subjects younger than 18, a chaperone must be provided by the agency, and the agency must ensure compliance with any applicable labour laws, including child labour laws.
· All work performed during a photo or video shoot must be in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including but not limited to labour, wage and hour, and immigration laws.
· Photo shoot participants may not be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs (including unauthorised prescription drugs), and the consumption or use of alcohol and illegal drugs (including the misuse of prescription drugs) on the premises of a shoot is strictly prohibited.
· A brief describing any nudity, sheer clothing, lingerie, swimwear, animals, simulated drug or alcohol use or sexually suggestive poses planned to be incorporated in a shoot will be distributed to all concerned parties and must be agreed to in advance by the subject of the images. All attendees at the shoot will be notified of any planned nudity.
· A private dressing space must be available to everyone appearing in a shoot.
· If sheer clothing is to be included, appropriate undergarments must be provided unless otherwise agreed to in advance by the subject of the images.
· Any concerns a subject has regarding the amount of skin exposure of wardrobe must be considered, and no subject should be pressured to expose themselves more than they feel comfortable.
· While Condé Nast maintains control over creative and aesthetic decisions, any concerns of a subject’s agent or other representative should be given respectful consideration.
· We recommend that a model should not be alone with a photographer, makeup artist or other contributor participating in a Condé Nast shoot.
· Throughout the shoot, including any related travel, photographers and videographers may not shoot anyone engaged by or through Condé Nast other than as requested by Condé Nast.
All participants in a photo or video shoot must act professionally and refrain from harassment of any kind. Unacceptable conduct includes but is not limited to the following:
· Sexual advances or propositions.
· Any type of sexual activity or contact.
· Any suggestion, direct or implied, that submission to or rejection of sexual advances will affect an individual’s ability to perform services for the shoot or any other Condé Nast project.
· Display of pornographic or obscene material.
· Offensive comments regarding a person’s sex, race, color, weight, body shape, size, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, including epithets and slurs.
· Physical threats or assaults.
Anyone who has concerns about conduct occurring on a photo shoot may contact the Condé Nast contact listed on the call sheet for the shoot that has been provided and/or posted on-set.