Aspiring model Meghan Chereek (not pictured) is accusing Jimmy Sommers, CEO of Wildfox Couture, of promising her a modeling contract and then intimidating her into having sex with him. He's 43; she was 17 at the time.
Chereek was in fashion school, but had dropped out due to "emotional distress." According to the New York Daily News, L.A.-based Sommers and Chereek met at a restaurant. She expressed interest in modeling for his brand, and he offered her a contract. Later that day, Sommers offered Chereek a spare room in his home. Then he initiated sexual contact with Chereek. And it didn't stop there:
In the months that followed, Sommers repeatedly forced her to engage in oral sex and intercourse, all the while holding over the promise of modeling for the Wildfox brand.
Chereek also claims that Sommers supplied her with never-ending amounts of alcohol, cocaine, and pot.
Chereek is seeking unspecified damages for mental and emotional suffering, injuries, and trauma, counseling and therapy expenses, shame, humiliation, and indignity, as well as future therapy expenses.
Sommers is charged with unlawful sex with a minor, unlawful oral sex with a minor, gender violence against the young woman, among other charges.
This is not the first time someone in the fashion industry has been accused of taking advantage of a young woman.
Photographer Terry Richardson, who shoots for several major fashion magazines and labels — including Bazaar, GQ, Valentino, Aldo, Ann Taylor, H&M and Jimmy Choo — has been accused of getting naked and whipping out his penis during photo shoots. One model who witnessed this phallus-waggling was also encouraged to touch Richardson's member; she was 19 at the time. (Richardson once said of breaking into modeling: "It's not who you know, it's who you blow. I don't have a hole in my jeans for nothing.")
Designer Anand Jon — who once appeared on America's Next Top Model — was sentenced to 59 years in prison after he was found guilty of rape and sexual assault of several young models. There were only nine victims at his trial, but at least 11 more young women claimed to have been sexually assaulted or abused. They, too, were around the age of 17.
As Hadley Freeman wrote for The Guardian in 2009:
It is impossible to say how common assaults on models by people in the business are because so few are reported, partly for the usual reason assaults often go unreported (a sense of shame on the woman's part), but also because of some factors specific to the fashion industry: models are often very young; they fear they won't work again if they "cause a fuss". Model Cohen describes it as "a reality in the industry".
"I know a model who, when she was 16, went to Paris on a photoshoot with a very famous photographer and he sexually assaulted her. She was stunned but didn't say anything," says Sara Ziff, a model in New York. When Ziff herself was 15, she had to explain to a photographer that she wasn't interested, "and I was lucky in that he was fine about it." Also, she points out, fashion is a very small industry in that "all the important people know each other, and look out for each other." Or, in other words, cover for each other.
Ziff went on to form The Model Alliance, which attempts to "improve basic working conditions in what is now an almost entirely unregulated industry." Sexual misconduct in the fashion industry might be an old story, but it still happens. Young people are taken advantage of — financially, sexually, emotionally.
As of right now, Sommers has not commented on the allegations against him. While he is the CEO of Wildfox, two women — Emily Faulstich and Kimberley Gordon — are the designers/"creative force" behind the brand. Surely they will have something to say, ASAP.