The general pressures of the fashion industry and mounting societal tensions have shined a light on the hardships of the model experience. Popular watchdog groups like Diet Prada have amplified these unheard voices through their social media platforms.
In recent years, many have spoken out regarding abuse they experienced throughout their careers, taking aim at high-profile fashion mavericks like business owner Peter Nygard, designer Alexander Wang and Guess founder Paul Marciano.
On Monday, Guess launched the Guess Safe Spaces/Model2Model Program, a personal and professional development initiative that responds to these issues and equips models with support resources. The program provides participants with skill-based training, professional mentorship and emotional and mental health assistance, with individuals receiving support tailored to their specific needs.
Leading the program is Guess model Xian Mikol, who has worked with the brand for the past five years.
“I have experienced firsthand the pressures, struggles and triumphs of the fashion world and their impact on a young model’s life,” she said. “We designed Guess Safe Spaces to give models a place to turn, gather advice from each other and create a community. I’m excited to strengthen the voices, build confidence and drive powerful and meaningful futures for models with Guess.”
The program was developed by Mikol, along with victim’s rights attorney Micha Star Liberty, the program’s advisor, and support from the Guess executive team—including Marciano, according to Mikol.
As part of the program, participants will have access to longtime Guess partner, the Violence Intervention Program (VIP), a community family advocacy center that supports more than 20,000 victims of family violence and sexual assault each year. The program will first be offered to models, and will eventually expand to include all Guess employees.
“Guess is a first in the industry to approach workers’ rights from the models’ perspective and proactively address a variety of issues that models commonly experience,” Liberty said. “With this mentorship and support, models can receive the tools and skillset to have healthy, long careers.”
Though model abuse is not limited to specific brands, Guess has fallen under scrutiny for allegedly harboring an unsafe environment.
Marciano has been the subject of sexual harassment allegations for years, with claims from notable models such as Kate Upton, others who wish to remain anonymous and a former family-owned boutique employee who made a similar report just last week. A model claimed in a past lawsuit that Guess not only “failed to prevent discrimination and harassment,” but also that it “created, fostered, tolerated, and condoned a work environment that was pervasively and/or severely hostile,” despite multiple relevant complaints.