Tommy Dorfman Calls Out Salvatore Ferragamo for 'Racist, Transphobic' Work Environment
The 13 Reasons Why actor worked with the luxury fashion label by casting and photographing its Viva Viva campaign earlier this year
The non-binary actor whose pronouns are they/them partnered with Ferragamo earlier this year to cast and photograph six young tastemakers — Dara Allen, Paloma Elsesser, Camila Mendes, Debby Ryan, Olivia Sui and Kiersey Clemens — for its Viva Viva campaign. But as the death of George Floyd sparked widespread unrest that left many Americans calling out brands that can do better, Dorfman decided it was time to speak up about the hostile work environment experienced at the luxury brand.
Earlier this week, Ferragamo posted an Instagram photo of multiple hands raised to the sky (which included fair to medium skin tones) in support of the Black Lives Matter initiative, quoting Nelson Mandela from his book Long Walk to Freedom and adding, "Reaching for a more egalitarian future. Racism must end now. #BlackLivesMatter."
Dorfman slammed the label on their Instagram Story (which was captured by fashion industry watchdog account Diet Prada) saying, "It is imperative to call out companies that you know to be racist during this time."
The actor admitted that while working on the Viva Viva campaign, "I did not do my part" when Ferragamo "showed their true selves" and now regrets ever working with the company.
"I thought I could change them through discourse, but all I got were meaningless apologies," they wrote. "I cut ties with them months ago when it became clear that they discriminated against talent I cast in a campaign AGAIN after promising not to."
Dorfman claimed that "the people who run this company are racist, transphobic and are not body-positive." The actor also alleged that Ferragamo hired black and trans people "by force of hand" and did not "treat them equally," adding that the number of minorities they feature in campaigns is still small.
In one instance, Dorfman said they directly heard Ferragamo's creative director [Paul Andrew] ask if "they could make a black model white in Photoshop."
"They have said heinous transphobic, body phobic and racist things directly to me. I called them out every time and they promised to change," Dorfman said. "They said they 'learned.' They have very clearly not learned, nor have they changed. They have proved, as a company, over and over again to only be interested in meaningless apologies with zero followthrough."
The actor said Ferragamo has threatened legal action if they spoke up which is why they has stayed quiet about their experience, but now, "that time is over." Dorfman added: "I am sorry I did not speak sooner on this matter. I feel extreme shame for not calling these people out until now."
Dorfman ended the statement urging white people to recognize when they've been complacent to racism, homophobia and transphobia both directly and indirectly. "Call it out. Call ourselves out," they said.
Since being promoted to creative director in 2019, Andrew has publicly discussed his mission to show a diverse range of individuals across the brand. "We are addressing a kaleidoscope of individuals. It’s not just about a 25-year-old girl that so many brands depict on their runways – we have women in their 70s and 80s, women who are in their teens, and everyone in between shopping at Ferragamo, so I feel like it makes sense within our fashion shows and within our ad campaigns to show that diversity in generations, and also diversity in culture and of skin color," Andrew said in an interview with Porter magazine in 2019.
In Ferragamo's most recent Fall/Winter 2020 runway, which featured 40 looks, 17 of the models were people of color.
PEOPLE has reached out to Ferragamo, Andrew and Dorfman's rep for comment.
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
•Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
•National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.