Sexual assault victims told their stories on the runway during a New York Fashion Week show inspired by the #MeToo movement on Friday night.
The #MeToo Fashion Show was the brainchild of Myriam Chalek, creative director of American Wardrobe, who wanted to use her label as a platform to benefit women.
"Nothing is going to change overnight," Chalek said on the runway. "The French Revolution didn't happen overnight. But I'm hopeful you'll leave the room thinking."
The show, held in The Green Room at Yotel hotel in Hell's Kitchen, was free and open to the public. The space quickly filled with some 150 to 200 guests – not the usual gaggle of editors, celebrities and other front-row suspects, but with scores of eager men and women.
"I'm just in town for three months, and when I heard about this, I thought it was important to see," Julia Von Mens, a dancer from Holland, said.
"I couldn't get to the Women's March, so I wanted to come to this," echoed Parsons student Jacqueline Naef.
The show featured American Wardrobe fashions and designs by Minika Ko worn by eight women who identify as survivors of harassment, rape or sexual misconduct. The women walked the runway, then returned one-by-one – handcuffed to a man wearing a rubber pig mask – to revealed tales of sexual harassment, assault or rape.
Among them was Alicia Kozakiewicz, who was abducted in 2002 near her home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by a man who had groomed her online, a case that made international headlines as one of the first such kidnappings of the internet age.
"I knew he was going to murder me and my time was almost up," she told the audience. Though she was saved, she admitted she suffers from PTSD.
Kozakiewicz, who also is known as Alicia Kozak, is now a motivational speaker.
Sabrina Piper, a comedian, told a sobering tale of a recent date rape. Though she didn't press charges, she later confronted her assailant, she explained.
"'Maybe you don't remember it right,'" she said, repeating his words. She paused. Then, her voice firm: "But I remember it right.
"I'm really sorry to say 'me, too,' but I'm really glad we're doing something about it – finally.”
After speaking, each woman would free herself from her handcuffs and attach the restraints to a chair.
"You see people – you never know where they've been, what they've gone through," said Frankie Adonis, an aspiring fashion designer and one of the masked men who participated in the show.
Chalek marveled at the bravery of each woman who participated.
"It's really something, that [these women] have the courage to stand up in front of strangers and tell their stories. I mean, that is a very scary thing," Chalek told amNewYork ahead of the show.
Since October, hundreds of women have accused powerful men in business, politics, media and entertainment of sex abuse, joining the #MeToo social media movement that has shone a light on sexual misconduct across the United States.
In the fashion world, sexual abuse allegations have also come from men.
The New York Times reported last month that more than two dozen male models and assistants who worked with high-powered fashion photographers Bruce Weber and Mario Testino say they were subjected by them to molestation, sexual advances and unnecessary nudity.
Lawyers for both photographers told The Times they denied the allegations, which nevertheless prompted the magazine company Conde Nast to suspend its work with them. Reuters could not independently confirm any of the accusations.
With Meghan Giannotta