The #MeToo movement has arrived in the modeling industry -- a business where "sex sells" has blurred the lines between erotic inspiration and sexual harrassment.
Now, several male models and assistants are claiming the latter against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, two of the most celebrated photographs in fashion. Weber is known for his erotic ad campaigns for Abercrombie & Fitch and Calvin Klein; and Testino is a favorite for Vogue magazine and the British royal family.
The New York Times reports that 15 models who have worked with Weber recounted a troubling pattern of behavior, where the photographer would compel nudity as well as sexual acts during photo shoots. For example, Weber would lead the models through "energy" exercises, where they were encouraged to strip and move their hands to a source of "energy," which included genitals.
"I remember him putting his fingers in my mouth, and him grabbing my privates," said Robyn Sinclair, a model. "We never had sex or anything, but a lot of things happened. A lot of touching. A lot of molestation."
Testino has also been accused of unwanted touching and masturbation from 13 male models and assistants, with claims of abuse stretching back to the mid 90s.
Representatives from both photographers contested the accounts. Weber, through his lawyer, said he is "completely shocked and saddened by the outrageous claims being made against me, which I absolutely deny." Testino's law firm, in a challenge to the accusers' characters, claimed it had interviewed several employees, who "could not confirm any of the claims."
In response to the accusations, Anna Wintour -- editor in chief of Vogue and artistic director of its parent company Conde Nast -- announced in a statement that the publisher was standing by the reported victims and would suspend its working relationship with the photographers.
The media company will also institute new protections for its employees, from a plan that began in October following the initial reports of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
"Even as we stand with victims of abuse and misconduct, we must also hold a mirror up to ourselves--and ask if we are doing our utmost to protect those we work with so that unacceptable conduct never happens on our watch," Wintour stated. "Sometimes that means addressing the fact that such behavior can occur close to home."
"Today, allegations have been made against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, stories that have been hard to hear and heartbreaking to confront," she continued. "Both are personal friends of mine who have made extraordinary contributions to Vogue and many other titles at Conde Nast over the years, and both have issued objections or denials to what has emerged."
"I believe strongly in the value of remorse and forgiveness, but I take the allegations very seriously, and we at Conde Nast have decided to put our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future."