Photo: Joel Thomas. Model: Elena Šiljić

In plain sight: the fashion industry responds to Pavement revelations

Nearly a week on from the publishing of In plain sight, we collate a selection of responses from people involved in the fashion industry and the Pavement scene at the time. 

Since The Spinoff published In plain sight: behind the pages of Pavement magazine last week, more than 20 people from the New Zealand fashion world have been in touch to share their own experiences with the magazine. That is on top of the more than a dozen people associated with the publication we spoke to during the investigation, which detailed the experiences of three women in their interactions with the men of Pavement, including allegations of sexual harassment and a sexual relationship between a photographer and a 15 year-old model.

Barney McDonald and Glenn Hunt, the magazine’s co-founders, deny any wrongdoing, and you can read their full responses here. Photographer Karl Pierard is yet to respond to requests for comment. The Spinoff has received three emails from women recounting positive experiences both working and living with the men of Pavement.

The testimonies  from photographers, designers, models, stylists, protesters, agents and former Pavement writers and staffers provide further insights into the structures that many say underpinned complicity within the industry and silence from the young women. With their permission and their names blinded, we collated some of the strongest responses below.

A former Pavement model 

“Like most girls, I was sensitive to implicit, environmental cues that the only way women gain power is through sex and beauty and I desperately wanted to belong. While Pavement practices were the absolute low, the entire fashion industry provided scaffolding for this type of exploitation. I had no union, I often worked for free, agents were financially opaque or looked the other way, and I was allowed to miss school and eventually dropped out. Alcohol, and occasionally drugs, were freely available backstage, on shoots, and at industry events.

“Although I didn’t have a ‘definitive’ moment of predatory behaviour directed at me, I don’t want people like me to be used as a shield of defence. The #MeToo movement doesn’t make me feel like a victim for posing nude as a teenager, but I do feel like my voice is stripped away when everyone involved in that industry cannot own up to how the exploitation of girls and women was normalised and marketed with clever euphemisms such as ‘edgy’ and ‘art’.”

Photo: Joel Thomas

An agent 

“We were one of the top agencies at the time in Auckland and withdrew our models from Pavement after an incident left us concerned about the working conditions on their shoots. Following this, no further models were supplied by our agency to the magazine.

“We cannot say this was an isolated incident, nor can we say that this happened frequently with this client, as every editorial is different and some were amazing. However, it did lead us to take this stand. This isn’t indicative of the whole industry but, as an agent, we put as many measures in place as we possibly can to protect our models from this behaviour.

A New Zealand fashion designer

“I vividly remember never being or wanting to be involved with Pavement due to the drugs offered to models and their behaviour. I personally witnessed a large group of women with banners outside of the Pavement offices on High Street, demanding they be shut down after printing a double page spread with a young girl with her legs wide open. It was not art, it was pornography.

“All the designers so desperately wanted to be famous, so they were happy to turn a blind eye for the chance of appearing in it. As a brand, we never supported them. I was glad we were the ‘outsiders’ as I never wanted a bar of it, they made my skin crawl. These women’s stories are so detailed and informed, I believe every word, and support them in their lifelong effort to recover from the horrors that have befallen them.”

Photo: Joel Thomas

A former protester 

“A Pavement issue came out that had a really dodgy centrefold of a teenage girl with her naked crotch obscured by the fold line. It was vile, and we were outraged! So we made posters – photocopied at a dairy – that said ‘Pavement – Porno for Pedophiles’. The dairy owner was bemused, to say the least. With feminist zeal, we plastered the posters on High Street (outside the Pavement offices), Queen Street, K’ Road and Ponsonby with glue made from flour and water.”

“Our ‘protest’ was covered on the six o’clock news along with other expressions of outrage – but no one ever knew who did it.”

A former model

“I got a casting at Pavement once and I remember another girl from my agency warning me not to let myself get left alone with Barney. She said it as if all the girls knew and were just warning each other. We were standing in the painting class at our high school and would have probably been 5th or 6th form. I was lucky enough that the casting was a proper one with an editorial team there. I didn’t book the shoot, but I was devastated a few months later when I got a text while on a family holiday that they wanted me for a shoot the next day.

“I’m so glad it happened that way and that I never got to shoot with them because I was desperate to be in Pavement and would have been easily manipulated.”

Photo: Joel Thomas

A stylist

“While I fully support the women’s accounts of what happened to them, I would like to mention that there was such an acceptance by so many in the industry, also in positions of power and influence, who turned a blind eye to the Pavement culture and activity and also condoned it.

“Model agencies, makeup artists, fashion designers, photographers, creatives, advertisers, other stylists. Not just by attending the magazine’s legendary parties but by gossiping on set, swapping stories and continuing to send models to go-sees and shoots with Pavement.”

A former Pavement staff member

“Every new staffer that came on would get ‘the talk’. Look out for yourself. Don’t be around them when they’ve been drinking or doing lots of drugs by yourself. We all stuck together and looked out for each other. I was very young and scared and impressionable at the time, so I just put my head down and did whatever Barney told me. I didn’t want to rock the boat and never get work again. But also because I had never worked in that environment before, I had no idea what a professional magazine environment would be like. I just thought it was what happened everywhere.

“Looking back now, I feel so sad that it was my first impression of what this industry can be like, and even more determined to try to change it.”

alex@thespinoff.co.nz

In plain sight was made possible by The Spinoff’s Longform Fund for investigative journalism.

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