In a new interview published by Numero, Philip Utz sat down with Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld, whom Utz describes as “a truly free spirit,” “a cult figure in the fashion world,” “a veritable pop icon,” and a lacking in “taboos,” the duo talks about everything from the speed of fashion and the #MeToo movement to who Lagerfeld would like to see replace him at Chanel and who he thinks are particularly talented young creatives.
The most striking excerpt from the interview is the one in which Lagerfeld sounds off on how the #MeToo movement has affected his work, in which he states, “I read somewhere that now you must ask a model if she is comfortable with posing … Its unbelievable. If you don’t want your pants pulled about, don’t become a model! Join a nunnery, there’ll always be a place for you in the convent. They’re recruiting even!”
Unsurprisingly, the passage has garnered its (rightful) fair share of pushback, with a boycott of the brand being raised by actress/activist Rose McGowan, who took to her Instagram this week to write, “You’ve made so much money off of women’s insecurities, it’s time for you to ride off into the misogynistic sunset. #BoycottChanel.”
Since then, the New York-based Model Alliance’s Executive Director Sara Ziff has bravely spoken out, as well, by way of a lengthy open letter, in which she points to the recent “seismic shift in public discussion of sexual misconduct in the workplace—and the fashion industry is no exception—yet, it is clear that we as a society are only just beginning to understand the size and scope of the problem.”
As Ziff aptly notes, the “disgraceful comments by Karl Lagerfeld in an April 12th interview with Numéro Magazine underscore just how much work we still have to do. While not surprising (Lagerfeld is well known for offensive comments and body-shaming women for their weight and appearance), Lagerfeld’s assertion that models should ‘join a nunnery’ if they don’t want their pants pulled down is, nonetheless, outrageous.”
The Model Alliance has, as Ziff notes, worked to incorporate the need for change within the industry in regards to various types of abuses, by "developing a robust, industry-wide program that provides, among other things: comprehensive education and training to models about their rights on the job; a secure complaint mechanism and an independent monitoring body to investigate allegations of abuse; meaningful remedies for victims; increased financial transparency and security for models (thereby eliminating factors that often leave models vulnerable to abuse); and, real accountability."
"The fashion industry should be a place where creativity and self-expression flourishes, and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect on the job," Ziff states. "Times have changed – and, with it, fashion’s moral standing and accountability must, as well."