By Peter Szekely
NEW YORK, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Inspired by a social media campaign aimed at exposing widespread sexual assault and harassment in U.S. life, a fashion show on Friday will have a #MeToo theme and feature models who share their stories on the runway.
The #MeToo Fashion Show during New York Fashion Week is the brainchild of Myriam Chalek, creative director of American Wardrobe, who wanted to use her label as a platform to benefit women.
"I don't think this fashion show is going to change things overnight, but if it can be a step further then I guess I've done my part. A woman who has been empowered is a woman who is unstoppable," Chalek told Reuters in an interview.
While the show will feature American Wardrobe fashions, Chalek said the event is nonprofit. The models are victims or survivors of sexual assault and harassment who will tell their stories from the catwalk, she said.
Among them will be 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.
Kozakiewicz, who also is known as Alicia Kozak, is now a motivational speaker.
To highlight abuses in the fashion industry, model Cameron Russell has for the past four months been posting anonymous stories on her Instagram page by fellow models recounting their experiences of sexual assault.
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.
(Additioinal reporting by Gina Cherelus; Writing by by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Daniel Wallis)
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