A new report from the New York Times details many allegations of sexual harassment and bullying against two former Victoria’s Secret executives, depicting a “culture of misogyny” within the brand.
The report, which was published on February 1, outlines several instances of alleged harassment from former L Brands execs Ed Razek and Leslie Wexner. (L Brands is the parent company of Victoria’s Secret.) In one particular incident ahead of the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, model Bella Hadid was reportedly the target of lewd comments from Razek.
According to the Times’ report, Razek allegedly watched Bella as she was measured for underwear to wear on the runway. The exec reportedly told the employees in the room to “forget the panties,” and also allegedly made an inappropriate comment about the model’s breasts. The Times adds that Razek allegedly touched another model’s crotch through her underwear during that same fitting. At the time of writing, Bella has not commented on the alleged incident.
The Times notes that an employee later brought a complaint against Razek to the company’s HR department; a copy of the document obtained by the paper reportedly showed more than a dozen allegations against the exec, including demeaning comments and inappropriate touching. This document was reportedly not the only HR complaint throughout Razek’s tenure.
In a statement to the New York Times, Razek denied the allegations against him, writing: “The accusations in this reporting are categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context. I’ve been fortunate to work with countless, world-class models and gifted professionals and take great pride in the mutual respect we have for each other.” However, a representative for L Brands told the Times that the company is focused on corporate governance and workplace and compliance practices, adding in a statement: “We regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective and are fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability.”
Last summer, a group of over 100 models signed a petition urging Victoria’s Secret to take a stand against sexual harassment and violence after several photographers associated with the brand had been accused of sexual misconduct. The petition also highlighted Wexner’s link to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein — a detail that the new Times report explores further.
The August 2019 petition was accompanied by an open letter from Model Alliance, in partnership with Time’s Up. “We are calling on Victoria’s Secret to take meaningful action to protect its talent and those who aspire to work with the company,” the letter read at the time. “Victoria’s Secret has the opportunity to be a leader, to use its power and influence to bring about the changes that are urgently needed in our industry. Every day, fashion brands, publishing companies, and agencies set the norms of what’s acceptable and what’s not in fashion. If Victoria’s Secret were to take a stand against these abuses and commit to meaningful change by joining the RESPECT Program, this would go a long way in helping our industry chart a new path forward.”