Allegations of exploitation and misconduct brought to the School of Fine Arts
Former colleagues and ex-models have reported alleged experiences of financial, sexual and racial misconduct – to which Eden Loweth has now responded in A declaration
London-based fashion label Art School has come under close scrutiny following a number of exploitation allegations that began surfacing on social media last week. The allegations were first raised in a series of since-expired Instagram stories by former art school models, employees and associates, including Sharon Le Grand, Alexis Meshida and photographer Heather Glazzard. Since the first allegations were made last week, Dazed has spoken with the perpetrators of the allegations and with Eden Loweth from the art school.
Lucia Blayke, the director of the queer and trans Harpies club party, who launched models for the art school’s AW21 show in February 2021, also shared a statement. In a post uploaded to Instagram on June 1, Blayke claimed that neither she nor the majority of the models who walked the runway were paid for their work.
“Those who got paid were only paid after threatening Creative Director Eden Loweth with public calls,” Blayke said. âNot only was I not paid for my work or my time, but I have since had to try to deal with the 45 upset models who trusted me to do this show. Some of them are trans people of color and face bigger societal issues due to marginalization, âshe continued.
Blayke, who spent January working with Art School, said he was fired as a casting director following multiple payment attempts. Since the initial call, various role models have come forward, sharing similar stories of working with Loweth’s team. Tyler With Rosacea, who has appeared on the art school catwalk over several seasons, also took to Instagram to detail their alleged battle for payment. “Almost 3 months late is no excuse for their success and their platform, and with such admiration for @luciablayke, I know it wasn’t just me, it was everyone”, they declared.
Alexis Meshida posted an Instagram reel on June 3 detailing his alleged experience working with the brand, saying it took him months to receive payment for appearing on the AW21 show and that “the art school exploits some of the most vulnerable in our community – trans people of color and trans women of color â. âEven though I got paid for my part in art school (bearing in mind that it was over five months later and I must have sent a threatening email), I am very aware that many models / creatives still have not been paid and that many models in the past were not paid at all, âthe model wrote in the accompanying caption, before asking for an apology at Loweth.
On June 3, Blayke released a compilation of quotes collected from former freelancers, models and stylists, who, alongside allegations of financial neglect, allege they suffered racist, transphobic and sexual misconduct while working with the school of art.
Designer Michaela Stark says she worked as a dressmaker for the brand throughout 2017 on an “illegal contract” – “they fired me 1 month before the end of my contract, after degrading me in front of the whole lot. “Sexuality team I present myself on Instagram. They refused to pay me over Â£ 1000 for the almost year of work I did for them,” she said.
Photographer Heather Glazzard added, “Art school in a casting made me take my clothes off and I was like ‘no I don’t wanna’, saying I had to take my binder outâ¦ After talking about what point I was uncomfortable, they threatened me and made me come into the office to say that if I told someone, I would be screwed. âBiogal, another model from the school of art, claimed to have seen Loweth refuse to launch an Asian model because “he looked too much like a sushi chef.”
Blayke also alleged that, after asking for compensation, Loweth claimed that “they had literally just been diagnosed with terminal illness and were receiving blood transfusions due to a low blood count.” Karen Clarkson, stylist for Christina Aguilera and Rita Ora, also claimed the designer said so in 2018.
Since arriving on the London fashion scene in 2017, the art school has become known for its diverse catwalks, enlisting models of all sizes, ages, races, abilities and genres to walk in its shows, and recently has been announced as one of the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN Award recipients. Over the past week, Blayke and his peers have demanded “a public apology from the art school and that everyone remaining be paid instantly.”
In light of these allegations, Dazed contacted the art school and received a statement from Eden Loweth. Accepting responsibility for “unacceptable delays in payment from suppliers, contractors and community members” and saying the art school “was working tirelessly to resolve these issues as quickly as possible”, the designer also highlighted the financial difficulties encountered by young labels. . âThe outward appearance of a brand can often mask difficult and demanding financial realities, especially for start-ups. It’s been a steep learning curve and lesson for me, and hopefully other young business owners, on what the responsibilities of the role really mean.
However, Loweth has denied the allegations of racist, transphobic and sexual misconduct. âAttempts to discredit my integrity and character, and therefore the art school, began within the community that I considered to be my extended family,â the statement continued. âI have been painted in a downright wrong way through snapshots of interactions taken out of context, fabricated and sharing deeply personal and intimate details for myself. Parts of my community have launched a campaign against one of their own and attempted to compromise the integrity of an ally who, since the founding of the art school five years ago, has pleaded without break for representation and change.
“To anyone who was hurt or who did not feel heard by my actions – I am deeply sorry,” Loweth said at the end of their statement.
Responding to Loweth’s statement, Lucia Blayke said she found their apologies “very reductive and contemptuous to the people who bravely stepped forward and shared their experiences,” adding that the process was “very trying for those of us. between us involved “. âNone of us wanted to make this public and a lot of us took big risks with our careers, but the art school was going to continue to exploit and mistreat people if we didn’t stop them. It has been a long time coming, âshe concluded.
Read Eden Loweth’s statement in full below.
âThe recent allegations made against myself and the art school have been deeply shocking and saddening. The outward appearance of a brand can often mask difficult and demanding financial realities, especially for start-ups. It’s been a steep learning curve and a lesson for me, and hopefully other young business owners, on what the responsibilities of this role really mean.
I and the art school take full responsibility for unacceptable delays in payment from vendors, contractors, and community members, and are working tirelessly to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. That the financial challenges of my own business over the past year have hurt people and caused so much struggle and upheaval never should have happened, and I take responsibility for anyone for whom this has happened. .
Attempts to discredit my integrity and character, and therefore the art school, began within the community that I considered to be my extended family. My initial reaction was to not respond while addressing the overdue payment issues, but the allegations made since then have become increasingly inflammatory and therefore compelled me to respond. I hoped that the issue of payment, for which I accept full responsibility, could have been resolved between us and without the need to publicly discuss the financial situation of the art school, which has potentially damaging effects both for the business and the platform we have together created in it.
I have been painted in a way that is just plain wrong through snapshots of interactions taken out of context, fabricated and sharing deeply personal and intimate details to myself.
Parts of my community have launched a campaign against one of their own and attempted to jeopardize the integrity of an ally who, since the founding of the art school five years ago, has relentlessly advocated for representation and change.
My priority right now is resolving outstanding financial obligations, as I know how desperately these payments are needed.
To anyone who was hurt or who did not feel heard by my actions, I am deeply sorry.
UPDATE: A version of this article previously stated that the allegations were first made via Lucia Blayke on June 3. This article has been edited to include information from Alexis Meshida and Sharon Le Grand. This article has also been updated to include a response from Lucia Blayke on June 9.