If you have even a vague interest in the world of modelling, you’ll doubtless be aware that it can be an exploitative place for young women. While the vast majority of casting directors, photographers and other industry professionals treat models with respect and courtesy, stories also abound of institutional racism, sexual harassment and outright bullying.
Now, a prominent casting director has called out the mistreatment he witnessed in the run-up to Paris Fashion Week – naming and shaming two of the perpetrators in the process.
James Scully is the casting director for designers including Stella McCartney, Jason Wu, Nina Ricci and Carolina Herrerra, and has long been an outspoken supporter of more diversity on the catwalks.
In a post on Instagram on Tuesday, Scully accused Balenciaga casting directors Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes of behaving abusively towards models, saying: “If this behaviour continues it’s gonna be a long cold week in Paris.”
“So, true to my promise at #bofvoices that I would be a voice for any models, agents or all who see things wrong with this business, I’m disappointed to come to Paris and hear that the usual suspects are up to the same tricks,” he wrote.
Scully said that he had been “very disturbed to hear from a number of girls” that Gregori Boina and Fernandes had made over 150 models “wait in a stairwell” for several hours during a casting for the Balenciaga show on Sunday.
Gregori Boina and Fernandes, whom Scully described as “serial abusers”, reportedly told the models that “they would have to stay over 3 hours to be seen and not to leave”.
“In their usual fashion they [then] shut the door went to lunch and turned off the lights to the stairs, leaving every girl with only the lights of their phones to see,” Scully said.
“Not only was this sadistic and cruel, it was [also] dangerous and left more than a few of the girls I spoke with traumatised.”
So true to my promise at #bofvoices that I would be a voice for any models, agents or all who see things wrong with this business 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 over 3 hours to be seen and not to leave. In their usual fashion they shut the door went to lunch and turned off the lights, to the stairs leaving every girl with only the lights of their phones 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 Ellie Saab who they also cast for because they refuse 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. On top of that I have heard from several agents, some of whom are black that they have received mandate from Lanvin that they do not want to be presented with women of color. 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 too many of these models are under the age of 18 and clearly not equipped to be here but god forbid well sacrifice anything or anyone for an exclusive right? If this behavior continues it's gonna be a long cold week in paris. Please keep sharing your stories with me and I will continue to to share them for you. It seems to be the only way we can force change and give the power back to you models and agents where it rightfully belongs. And I encourage any and all to share this post #watchthisspace
A post shared by james scully (@jamespscully) on
Scully, who said at a Business of Fashion [BoF] VOICES event in December that he was frequently shocked at racism in the modelling industry, also called out another major fashion house for its alleged discriminatory casting criteria.
“I have heard from several agents, some of whom are black that they have received mandate from Lanvin that they do not want to be presented with women of colour,” he wrote.
He added that “another big house” was attempting to book 15-year-old models for its Paris show, despite this being below the minimum legal working age in France.
“It’s inconceivable to me that people have no regard for human decency or the lives and feelings of these girls, especially when too too many of these models are under the age of 18 and clearly not equipped to be here,” he said.
Scully’s post quickly gathered steam on social media, and was liked and shared by several prominent figures in the fashion industry, including supermodels Edie Campbell, Carolyn Murphy, and Joan Smalls.
“Thank you for sharing!” wrote Helena Christensen. “This is important. People can be such scumbags, selfish, arrogant and pathetic. Keep sharing, girls and keep raising awareness.”
In a statement, Balenciaga apologised to the models involved in Sunday’s casting and said they had severed ties with Gregori Boina and Fernandes.
“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…. Balenciaga condemns this incident and will continue to be deeply committed to ensure the most respectful working conditions for the models.”
Gregori Boina and Fernandes also cast for Hermes, which declined to comment when contacted by The Cut. A representative for Elie Saab said that the brand “takes the health and well-being of models seriously” and “respects and supports women”.
At the time of writing Lanvin had not issued a statement.
Images: Rex Features