Fashion’s New Distance From Terry Richardson Is Too Little, Too Late
While Terry Richardson has become the poster child for fashion’s sexual harassment problem, photographers, editors, stylists, casting directors and others are known to routinely engage in misconduct in an industry where power dynamics disadvantage young women.
NEW YORK, United States — Life for Terry Richardson seems to have become harder in a post-Harvey Weinstein world. On Tuesday, London’s Daily Telegraphreported that James Woolhouse, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Condé Nast International, the media giant’s international arm, sent an internal email to the company’s global presidents instructing them to stop collaborating with Richardson. The controversial fashion photographer’s alleged sexual misconduct with models, which occurred on sets, first surfaced in disturbing detail over a decade ago. And yet Richardson remains a frequent choice for editorial and advertising projects across the fashion industry.
A representative for the London-based Condé Nast International confirmed Woolhouse’s email, which was reported to have been sent at 8.14am local time on Monday. A representative for Condé Nast (in the US) told BoF: “Condé Nast has nothing planned with him going forward. Sexual harassment of any kind is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.” While many of Condé Nast’s international titles, particularly Vogue Paris, have worked with the photographer as recently as this year, the American titles had largely stopped. American Vogue last worked with Richardson in 2010 and by 2014, the company’s other US titles had followed suit.
That is until Condé Nast’s W commissioned Richardson to shoot an editorial for the magazine’s November 2017 issue, on newsstands now. (The shoot was commissioned after Edward Enninful left the title to run British Vogue.) W’s editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi declined to comment on why he decided to start working with the photographer again after six years. WSJ Magazine and CR Fashion Book, which have recently commissioned covers from Richardson, also declined to comment. Although Richardson shot for WSJ as recently as September 2017, sources say the title has no plans to work with him again. Representatives for Hearst, Net-a-Porter’s Porter magazine, Dazed and Fantastic Man — all of which have worked with Richardson in the last two years — did not return requests for comment.
On Tuesday, a representative for Valentino — which has regularly commissioned Richardson to photograph campaigns — told BoF that the house will not work with him again. But just this month, the Italian megabrand released a Resort 2018 campaign lensed by Richardson and featured it on its Instagram account. “Valentino’s last campaign with photographer Terry Richardson was shot in July 2017,” said the representative. “There are no plans on a future campaign and of course [we] take these allegations against Terry Richardson seriously.” Valentino has removed Richardson’s name from the credits in captions of the Resort 2018 campaign images on Instagram, but not the images themselves.
But the allegations of Richardson’s sexual misconduct have been around for years. There have been no new public reports of sexual misconduct by Richardson since 2014, when press coverage of his alleged behaviour and questions as to why brands and magazines still tolerated this and worked with him reached fever pitch. “Is Terry Richardson an Artist or a Predator?” asked New York Magazine in 2014, after a suite of new accounts surfaced and more than a handful of brands, including Aldo and H&M, said they had no future plans to work with him.
“Like Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton and so many others before me, sexual imagery has always been a part of my photography,” wrote Richardson at the time on the Huffington Post. “I have never used an offer of work or a threat of rebuke to coerce someone into something that they did not want to do.”
“He is an artist who has been known for his sexually explicit work, so many of his professional interactions with subjects were sexual and explicit in nature, but all of the subjects of his work participated consensually,” a representative for Richardson told the Telegraph on Tuesday. “Terry is disappointed to hear about this [Condé Nast International] email especially because he has previously addressed these old stories.”
But following the avalanche of allegations against major Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein from over fifty actresses and concerns around negative PR fallout and whether brands and magazines could perhaps be held legally liable for job-related sexual harassment, the fashion industry, which long turned a blind eye to Richardson’s behaviour, suddenly appears to be taking a harder line.