British Vogue pulls plug on star photographers over sex abuse claims

Condé Nast magazine stops employing Mario Testino and Bruce Weber for foreseeable future following allegations of sexual exploitation of male models

British Vogue has stopped employing the star photographers Mario Testino and Bruce Weber “for the foreseeable future” after multiple allegations of sexual exploitation of male models in the US.

The magazine confirmed the move after Anna Wintour, the New York-based artistic director of Condé Nast, said it would not be commissioning new work from either of the photographers, effectively suspending two of the biggest names in fashion.

Burberry also said it had no plans to work with Testino again in the foreseeable future and there were reports that other brands including Michael Kors were reconsidering their relationship with the men.

A Burberry spokesperson said: “We take allegations of this nature very seriously. Burberry is committed to providing a just, safe and fair working environment and we have a zero-tolerance policy against any form of harassment, abuse or discrimination.”

According to the allegations, first reported by the New York Times, complaints over Testino’s behaviour relate to the mid-1990s and included groping and masturbation of male models. It is alleged that Weber separately told models to do naked breathing exercises, and touched them, including on their genitals. Both men have strongly denied the claims through their lawyers.

Weber, 71, has overseen advertising shoots for fashion companies including Abercrombie & Fitch and Calvin Klein and produced spreads for Edward Enninful, recently appointed as the first male editor of Vogue.

Testino, 63, who has regularly photographed British royalty, shot this month’s US Vogue cover featuring the tennis champion Serena Williams and her newborn baby.

Ryan Locke, a model who worked with Testino on Gucci campaigns, accused him of being aggressive and flirtatious throughout shoots, according to the New York Times, which reported him claiming Testino “was a sexual predator”.

Hugo Tillman, a photographic assistant, alleged Testino had once grabbed him on the street and tried to kiss him and, a few weeks later, pinned him down on a bed until he was removed by another person.

Another assistant, Roman Barrett, claimed Testino masturbated in front of him, and added: “Sexual harassment was a constant reality.”

Lavely & Singer, the Los Angeles law firm representing Testino, was reported to have said the sources “cannot be considered reliable”.

Testino’s lawyer, Andrew Brettler, told the Associated Press: “We are not providing any further comment at this time.” The firm did not respond to a request for comment from the Guardian.

Weber is accused by 15 current and former models of subjecting them to unnecessary nudity and coercive sexual behaviour, according to the New York Times.

The model Josh Ardolf said that during a nude shoot, Weber grabbed his genitals. Another model, Bobby Roache, said Weber tried to put his hands down his trousers during a casting in 2007.

In a statement from his lawyer, Weber said: “I’m completely shocked and saddened by the outrageous claims being made against me, which I absolutely deny.”

He told the New York Times that he used breathing exercises but never touched anyone inappropriately and described the claims against him as “twisted and untrue”.

The allegations of sexual impropriety in high fashion are just the latest in a series of scandals in spheres ranging from feature films, where the claims of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein have rocked Hollywood, to politics, where sexual harassment has been alleged against politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.

The theatre has also been affected, with allegations of sexual assault made against Kevin Spacey in London.

In October the fashion houses Valentino and Bulgari stopped commissioning the photographer Terry Richardson after allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour at photoshoots for almost two decades. Condé Nast also dropped him.

“Condé Nast Britain will not be commissioning new work with Bruce Weber or Mario Testino for the foreseeable future,” said a spokesman for the company, which also publishes GQ, Tatler and Wired magazines. “This includes British Vogue.”

Chris Cates, a model who came forward at the weekend to level his own accusations against Weber, called for a “#MenToo” movement, similar to the #MeToo movement in which women speak out against sexual harassment.

Cates wrote on the fashion website WWD that in 2006 Weber asked him to strip off twice. He did so the first time and felt “I’d never been so exposed in my life.” After he refused on the second occasion, Weber suggested he pursue acting instead, Cates claimed.

The claims against Weber and Testino came as Condé Nast issued a new code of conduct to protect models. The chief executive, Bob Sauerberg, banned the use of under-18 models, unless as the subject of a profile or news story, in which case they would have to be chaperoned.

He banned alcohol and recreational drugs on set, banned the use of Condé Nast sets for photographers’ own work, and blocked any shoot involving nudity, sheer clothing, lingerie, swimwear, simulated drug or alcohol use or sexually suggestive poses without the model’s advance approval.

In a personal statement, Wintour said: “Allegations have been made against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, stories that have been hard to hear and heartbreaking to confront.

“Both are personal friends of mine who have made extraordinary contributions to Vogue and many other titles at Condé 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 Condé Nast have decided to put our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future.”


Robert Booth and Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

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