Marc Jacobs Model Sued for Jumping Ship to Rival Agency

Sarah Abney is the latest runway stunner to be slapped with a lawsuit after allegedly jumping ship to a rival agency in breach of her contract. The model, who landed on Models.com’s ‘Hot List’ after closing Marc Jacobs’ and Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2015 shows during her debut season and appearing in ad campaigns for Jacobs thereafter, has been named in a breach of contract lawsuit from Fusion Models.

According to Fusion’s complaint, which was filed on Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, a state-level trial court, Abney entered into a geographically-exclusive representation contract with the New York-based model management company in 2014, which was slated to last through 2017. The terms of the contract set forth a 20 percent rate that Fusion is owed on all of Abney’s earnings established as a result of its representation.

Things came to a head last week when rival agency, Muse, announced that Abney had joined its roster, almost certainly after offering the budding star a more preferable commission rate. In addition to adding Abney to their board online, Muse announced her representation with an Instagram post, which Abney reposed on her own account along with the caption, “Excited for new beginnings.”

COMMON PRACTICE

Hardly a novel move, Abney joins a long list of models, who have deflected to rival agencies in violation of their existing contracts, only to be sued, often for upwards of a million dollars. Just last week, Victoria’s Secret model Sui He was able to settle the $1 million lawsuit filed against her by New York Models, after she left the agency for Women Management in breach of her contract.

Before that, model Ginta Lapina was similarly embroiled in legal drama with her New York-based agency, Women Management. The Latvia-born beauty, who was represented by Women until she opted to switch to rival DNA model management, was slapped with a $1 million-plus breach of contract suit by the agency. In that case, Women asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction, blocking Lapina from working with DNA until the lawsuit was completed. (Note: Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez refused to award Women a preliminary injunction, holding that Lapina's departure from the agency would not burden the company too significantly, as she is just one of many highly paid models on the Women Model Management roster).

One of the key assertions by the modeling agencies in these cases stems from their purported lost investments. In its complaint against Lapina, for instance, Women asserted that it had "invested substantial time, money and resources in Lapina’s nascent career, providing countless hours of professional services to Lapina and parlaying its industry contracts to introduce Lapina to top fashion designers, advertising clients and other industry professionals,” and as a result, she should be held to the contract they entered into.

In a 2012 lawsuit that Ford Models filed against Women Management over model Alana Zimmer, Ford claimed that Zimmer was one of the most important models of the moment, appearing in "Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and W Magazine, as well as on the catwalk for designers such as Pucci, Armani, Gucci, Ferragamo, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Christian Dior. The agency held that it was their "determined efforts [that] are responsible for moving her to the brink of superstardom."