In recent times, the fashion industry has received its fair share of credit for it’s efforts to improve diversity on runways and in fashion related magazines. This ties in nicely with the efforts to regulate the working conditions for models. However, there is still a long way to go to improving the overall conditions for the models who are working within the industry.
At least, this is the opinion of top casting direct, James Scully, who recently took to Instagram to inform the world that there is still serial misconduct happening out of the view of the public. Scully went on to say that he had witnessed first hand models facing cruel and racist treatment while working with some of the world’s biggest fashion brands during the Paris Fashion Week.
Specifically calling out Balenciaga’s casting directors Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes, Scully said:
“I’m disappointed to come to Paris and hear that the usual suspects are up to the same tricks. I was very disturbed to hear from a number of girls this morning that yesterday at the Balenciaga casting Madia & Ramy (serial abusers) held a casting in which they made over 150 girls wait in a stairwell told them they would have to stay for over 3 hours to be seen and not leave. In their usual fashion they shut the door and went to lunch and turned off the lights, to the stairs leaving every girl with only the lights of their phone to see. Not only was this sadistic and cruel it was dangerous and left more than a few of the girls I spoke with traumatized. Most of the girls have asked to have their options for Balenciaga cancelled as well as Hermes and Elie Saab who they also cast for because they refused to be treated like animals. Balenciaga part of Kering it is a public company and these houses need to know what the people they hire are doing on their behalf before a well deserved law suit comes their way.”
Whilst this was bad enough, James Scully didn’t stop there:
“On top of that I have heard from several agents, some of whom are black they have received mandate from Lanvin that they do not want to be presented with women of colour,”
“And another big house is trying to sneak 15 year olds into Paris! It’s inconceivable to me that people have no regard for human decency or the lives and feelings of these girls, especially when too many of these models are under the age of 18 and clearly not equipped to be here but god forbid well sacrifice anything for anyone for an exclusive right? If this behaviour continues it’s gonna be a long cold week in Paris.”
Part of the accusations from Scully have been confirmed by model Judith Schiltz. She took to Scully’s Instagram post to say:
“I was one of this 150 girls waiting in this stairwell. Hopefully, I’m 27 now, and it’s not my real job, but if I would have been younger and more into this, I would have been so destroyed by this kind of people or treatment. Personally, I decided to leave the casting, just it’s was my turn. Just after I saw the casting director screaming at us to go out- Outside, in the dark – and told us that we are like groupies in a concert, and how incredibly and unbearable it was.”
In Glamour magazine, Balenciaga released a statement via a spokesperson:
“On Sunday, February 26th Balenciaga took notice of issues with the model castings carried out on that day. The House reacted immediately, making radical changes to the casting process, including discontinuing the relationship with the current casting agency. Additionally, Balenciaga sent a written apology to the agencies of the models who were affected by this specific situation, asking them to share it with them. Balenciaga condemns this incident and will continue to be deeply committed to ensure the most respectful working conditions for the models.”
Scully isn’t a stranger to speaking out against the treatment of models, although this might be his most condemning yet. Scully has also enjoyed collaborations with some of the worlds top fashion houses including: Nina Ricci, Jason Wu and Stella McCartney.
Sara Ziff, Founding Director of the New York City-based advocacy group The Model Alliance (of which Scully is also an advisory board member) told Glamour:
“He’s been very supportive [of our work] and cares a great deal about the welling being of models,”
“It’s a little sad when someone has to take it upon themselves to individually call out bad behaviour, it’s a heavy burden.”
Ziff, who was instrumental in getting the 2013 legislation, that gives underage models protections as child performers, passed.
“We will continue to see abuses so long as the industry isn’t regulated properly. There aren’t enough protections in place.”
It’s clear that there’s still a lot of work to be done.
On a more positive note, the Paris Fashion Week has also been complimented for being the first fashion week which featured a model of every colour at the show. While it’s a shame that it was the first, it’s an important step in the right direction.